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France Telecom staff protest over wave of suicides

Text by NEWS WIRES

Latest update : 2009-10-01

Dozens of France Telecom employees have staged protests in Paris and in the city of Troyes, where a 49-year-old technician employed there stabbed himself after a demotion. There have been a staggering 22 suicides at the company in just 18 months.

AFP - France Telecom workers staged protests Thursday over a wave of a suicides that union leaders blame on the company's failure to help staff deal with the stress from restructuring.
  
About 100 employees rallied in Paris and 50 others gathered in the city of Troyes where a 49-year-old technician on Wednesday stabbed himself in the stomach with a knife after learning that he had been demoted.
  
The technician was recovering in hospital but the incident came after a worker took his own life in August, becoming the 22nd France Telecom employee to commit suicide in 18 months.
  
"There is a deep feeling of revolt," said union official Regis Pigre.
  
The technician in Troyes "started from the bottom and worked himself up. Overnight, he was told that he would be doing a less interesting job."
  
The CGT union said that France Telecom promised Thursday at a company health and safety committee meeting to suspend all restructuring measures until the end of October and to hire 100 extra human resources workers.
  
The CFDT union charged last month that there was a link between the suicides and management style at France Telecom, which is undergoing massive restructuring to become more competitive.
  
In the eastern city of Nancy, about 50 employees laid 22 roses in front of a France Telecom office in memory of staff members who took their lives.
  
"We want an independent commission of enquiry" into the deaths, said Noel Barroyer, a union activist.
  
About 100 workers in Marseille gathered to remember a 51-year-old colleague who killed himself in July after leaving a note that read: "I am killing myself because of my job at France Telecom. That's the only reason."
  
"We want answers from France Telecom," said CGT union activist Denis Capdevielle.
  
"There is a real problem linked to the changeover during the past 15 years from a publicly-owned company to one that has adopted American-style management, constantly cutting staff," he said.
  
France Telecom's head of human resources said the company, which remains partly owned by the state, was stepping up training of its 20,000 managers to help them detect potential suicide cases.
  
"I am confident that we can improve the situation," Olivier Barberot told Le Parisien newspaper.
  
But he argued that the number of suicide among France Telecom's 100,000 employees was not on the rise. There were 28 suicides in 2000 and 29 in 2002, he said.
  

Date created : 2009-09-10

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