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France

State intervenes as suicides mount at France Telecom

Video by Olivia SALAZAR-WINSPEAR

Text by FRANCE 24 (with wires)

Latest update : 2009-10-01

In the past 18 months 23 employees at France Telecom have committed suicide, which unions blame on the firm's restructuring programme. Employment minister Xavier Darcos is due to meet it's CEO Tuesday to discuss the issue.

Some 23 employees at France Telecom have committed suicide in the past 18 months.

 

On Friday, a 32-year-old worker threw herself to her death from her office window. Two days earlier another employee attempted suicide after hearing he was being downgraded to a position of less responsibility.

 

French Employment Minister Xavier Darcos is due to meet France Telecoms's CEO Didier Lombard on Tuesday to discuss the issue.

 

On Saturday, Darcos said "factors at work that have an impact on mental health" must be better dealt with, adding that he will be sending the government's chief work inspector to France Telecom's next health and safety committee meeting.

 

French Finance Minister Christine Lagarde also called for an emergency meeting of France Telecom's board of directors.

 

"Xavier Darcos and I have called for the board of directors to meet to discuss this issue at the highest level," she told French television channel, France 3. "There needs to be a strong message sent out to all the employees, followed by specific instructions across the hierarchy so that these issues can be taken properly into account."

 

France Telecom's human resources director Olivier Barberot has acknowledged that the organisation's restructuring programme had led to " employees suffering".

 

And Didier Lombard said Thursday that negotiations would begin with unions on stress issues at France Telecom, and said 100 new human resources employees would be recruited so that management could be "closer" to employee issues.




Unions fired up

 

The latest suicide has fired up unions, who called over the weekend for the state, which remains a major shareholder in the organisation, to take greater responsibility for France Telecom's employees.

 

Unions have lambasted the company's "obsession with profits" and called for "radical solutions" to prevent further suicides.

 

France Telecom is undergoing a huge restructuring programme in order to keep pace in an increasingly competitive internet and mobile communications market.

 

The issue of restructuring, which unions blame for employee discontent, remains unresolved.

 

Olivier Barberot, in an article for the "Journal de Dimanche" Sunday newspaper, said that halting the restructuring programme was "unimaginable", while promising to improve support measures for those employees who lose their positions.

 

In the past three years, France Telecom, a company with 100,000 employees on the payroll, has shed 22,000 workers through voluntary redundancies, while creating 5,000 new positions.

Date created : 2009-09-13

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