Converging on strike revisited: Deregulation and the rise of low cost employment regimes in the European airline industry
Airline industry restructuring proceeded in high gear following the 9/11 attacks, which triggered a global air transport crisis in the beginning of the new millennium. European (network) legacy carriers have been reorganizing to meet low-cost challengers in European and new competition in global markets. The focus on employment relations and cost-oriented human resource management (HRM) has already been discussed back in the 1990s, pitching industry-level convergence arguments against diversity accounts on the one hand, and featuring different understandings and methodologies of comparative industrial relations (IR) on the other hand. A final comment to a controversy in the European Journal of Industrial Relations of 15 years ago pointed to the neglected dimension of increasing tensions and labor conflicts in the earlier debate, and thereby addressed an important commonality in the European industry's development during the late 1980s and early 1990s. This article revisits the debate to eventually treat the argument of convergence on strike as a set of hypotheses to be tested for the time after 1995. Apart from overall confirming the pattern of a high propensity to labor conflict in the airline industry I concur with Gall (1996) that the causes for relatively high levels of conflict can change over time. A better understanding of the reasons for the latest convergence on strike (2000s) is therefore considered the next frontier with evidence suggesting an overall growing segment of low-cost employment relations to explain the most recent waves of labor conflict and the cross national variation of employment relations in the industry.
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