Self-immolation shows that France Telecom suicide saga not over
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An employee of France Telecom-Orange set himself on fire in his office parking lot on Tuesday, reviving the painful memory of a string of suicides that has gripped the telecommunications giant for three years.
A 57-year-old man committed suicide on Tuesday morning by setting himself on fire in the parking lot of a France Telecom-Orange office. It was the second suicide among the staff of the telecommunications operator this year, and a painful reminder of the wave of suicides that gripped the company in 2008 and 2009.
A spokesperson for the telecommunications giant, a former state monopoly, said that the incident happened at their site in Mérignac, near the southwestern city of Bordeaux. “Rescuers who arrived on the scene were only able to confirm the employee’s death”, the management said in a statement, adding that a trauma centre had been established at the site.
Jean-Maurice Bentolila, the company’s regional communications manager, added that no one had witnessed the tragedy.
The name of the deceased employee was not made available immediately, but a co-worker told the AFP news agency that he was a father of four. Sources within the company have said the suicide victim was a worker representative of the CFDT union.
“The entire staff is completely overwhelmed with emotion”, said Sébastien Crozier, a union representative of the CFE-CGC/Unsa union.
The CGT union said in a statement that the suicide was “proof that all is not settled at France Telecom, despite what some have said”, in reference to the more than 30 suicides that have plagued the company since January 2008, though they subsided last year.
Unions have blamed the suicides on a plan to restructure the company that was launched in 2004, whereby 22,000 employees have been given incentives to leave their jobs. The CGT added in its statement that the “lack of jobs and unreachable objectives continue to place daily pressure on employees”.
The company’s chief executive Didier Lombard stepped down in April 2010 after coming under fire for his handling of the crisis.
In September the telecommunications group presented a package of measures to improve working conditions and boost morale.
France Telecom-Orange counts about 100,000 employees in France and says on its website that sales for 2010 surpassed €45.5 billion.
According to union sources, the previous suicide occurred in January at an employee’s home.