As a UN Global Compact signatory, AXA is committed to uphold the right to freedom of association and collective bargaining. Indeed, effective labour-management communications and social dialogue pave the way for the stability needed to implement the Group's development strategy.
AXA has set up a European Works Council (EWC), whose role goes beyond the regulatory requirements in force. The EWC is made up of staff representatives from AXA's largest European subsidiaries, who meet in order to receive and exchange information on the social, strategic and economic issues that concern the Group, and maintain an on-going dialog between employees and management. These relations are framed by a specific Group EWC agreement. AXA holds two plenary meetings a year, in combination with a preparatory and post-plenary session systematically held for debriefing. These plenary meetings are attended by AXA's CEO. Moreover, the EWC's bureau meets monthly. Up to 50 employee representatives may be present in the EWC, which leads smaller affiliates to be adequately represented.
The introductory section of the Group EWC agreement is based on a number of international benchmark documents, such as the UN Declaration of Human Rights and the International Labour Organization's standards, as well as AXA's own set of core values and commitments. The agreement's appendix also contains certain recommendations in case of restructuring, as detailed in the following section.
75% of the Group's employees are covered by the European Works Council's framework agreement. Other affiliates outside the scope of the EWC have also developed social dialogue agreements, but these are not monitored at Group level. More generally, beyond Europe, the Group strives to ensure that employees are fairly represented in all major countries where it is present. In addition to the EWC's work, numerous collective bargaining agreements are signed on a local basis.
The conduct of restructuring
The Group EWC agreement provides a certain number of commitments to employees in the event of major organizational changes with impacts on jobs. AXA has developed the following principles with a view to guiding its various European entities in their local management:
- When organizational changes affect jobs, AXA pledges to supply relevant information and, as appropriate in light of local cultures and rules, to consult with employees and their representatives;
- In connection with this information-gathering and consultative process, the data and information provided by AXA will include possible alternative solutions if relevant;
- Factoring in the interests of its employees, clients and shareholders, AXA undertakes to maximize any opportunities for internal and external redeployments, when applicable, for all AXA employees affected by possible employment issues;
- AXA will do its utmost to prevent compulsory redundancies and other collective transfers, by pursuing other approaches whenever possible. More specifically, AXA endeavours to: 1) seize the opportunities offered by natural headcount attrition to facilitate employment issues; 2) make every effort to help employees, analyse their skills and career paths and offer them training and reassignment opportunities, when feasible; 3) give priority to voluntary departures and redeployments instead of redundancies and other forms of collective transfers; and 4) deal with decisions of international transfer of business (for example in the case of off-shoring) applying the principles of social dialogue explained in this text to the European countries involved;
- When geographic mobility is necessary, it must be offered as a matter of priority to employees who volunteer to move, with this process managed with a view to enabling their integration into a new environment under the best possible conditions;
- AXA pledges to recognize staff representatives and uphold their liberty, rights and functions, in line with national legislation and, where relevant, agreements in force in local business units;
- Aware that training represents a major investment both for the Group and for its employees, AXA is committed to developing a continuous learning culture;
- AXA will not discriminate against its staff on the basis of their gender, race, colour, ethnic origin, genetic form, disabilities, sexual orientation, language, religion, personal convictions, union membership or political opinions.
In addition, in 2011, AXA achieved a significant milestone with the signature, by the management of the Group, UNI Europe Finance and all the French representative trade unions, of a major European agreement on anticipating changes. This agreement, negotiated within the European Works Council, sets out a social dialogue approach with the purpose to anticipate changes within the sector in order to adapt the employees' skills to future needs and thus to preserve employment.
The agreement enables the definition by the social partners of a joint approach to anticipate structural changes with a possible impact on the Group's businesses. It also confirms the relevance of the European level to discuss employment issues at AXA, and is a renewed affirmation of the importance of a constructive and permanent social dialogue. In particular, social partners are taking the following three main commitments:
- The Group management will regularly inform the EWC about strategic changes caused by the European macroeconomic environment, as well as about the changes in the insurance sector.
- A "European skills and employment observatory" is established in order to anticipate the evolution of the skills needed within the Group.
- Measures are taken to preserve the employability of the AXA Group's employees in Europe and to support employees whose position might be threatened.
According to the EWC, this agreement is unique in the insurance sector. It offers significant means to secure employees' positions in Europe. In an uncertain environment, this strong signal shows the dynamism of the social relations within AXA's EWC, with the aim of finding alternative solutions and refusing to accept things as inevitable.
In 2011, AXA launched a new internal mobility policy and process across its major entities to support its business and better develop its people. The aim is to make business needs immediately visible through a global Group-wide posting of available jobs; detect internal skills through an enlarged hiring process; share knowledge, expertise and practices through facilitating transfers. In doing so, AXA wants to enhance internal recruitment and provide career opportunities across entities, improve the visibility of international offers and allow fuller access to a culture of trust and achievement through direct exposure to new environments. Offering sound mobility opportunities is part of AXA's pledge to become the preferred company for its current employees as well as displaying a more attractive work environment for those who will join the Group in the future.
AXA also initiated work on Strategic Workforce Planning at Group level in 2011. The focus is set on building a more comprehensive and a forward-looking vision of the business, including the impact of upcoming demographic challenges. It should help determine critical roles for the organization, execute "what-if" modelling, strategic business analysis and scenario development, demand forecasting, supply modelling and gap analysis. This will provide the Group and its entities with valuable analysis and tools enabling them to deliver better business outcomes through their workforce.