Languages
Page last updated at 16:54 GMT, Saturday, 12 September 2009 17:54 UK

French unease at telecom suicides

Union poster at the entrance of a France Telecom office in Troyes where a 49-year-old worker stabbed himself, 10 September 2009
Unions blame France Telecom's drive for efficiency

French Labour Minister Xavier Darcos is to meet the head of the country's main telecommunications company to discuss a number of suicides among its staff.

Twenty-three employees of France Telecom have killed themselves since the beginning of 2008.

Unions blame tough management methods at the multinational, which was privatised in 1998.

But France Telecom says the rate of suicides is statistically not unusual for a company with a 100,000 workforce.

According to the World Health Organization, France had an annual suicide rate of 26.4 for 100,000 men in 2008. The rate for women was 9.2 suicides per 100,000.

The latest suicide occurred on Friday, when a 32-year-old woman leapt to her death at a France Telecom office in Paris.

On Wednesday, a 49-year-old man in Troyes, east of Paris, plunged a knife into his own stomach during a meeting in which he had been told he was being transferred.

He is being treated in hospital.

Counselling

Mr Darcos is to meet France Telecom chief executive Didier Lombard early next week, a spokesman for the labour ministry announced on Saturday.

French Labour Minister Xavier Darcos
Minister Xavier Darcos is wading into the row over suicides

The unions say a never-ending drive for efficiency is causing emotional havoc in the workforce - especially among older employees recruited when France Telecom was part of the public sector.

Since privatisation in 1998 some 40,000 jobs have gone, and unions say there is pressure on many employees either to leave or to accept new working conditions.

The management of France Telecom denies that there has been a sudden increase in the suicide rate.

It points out that in the year 2000 there were 28 suicides in the company - a figure which it says is statistically not unusual.

France Telecom says most suicides are prompted by personal, not professional, causes.

However, a BBC correspondent in Paris says the firm concedes that the cultural and organisational changes required by the move from French public monopoly to a competitive multinational were bound to cause stress.

After the latest cases it has promised to hire more counselling staff and to suspend internal job transfers pending new talks with the unions.



Print Sponsor


SEE ALSO
Profits fall at phone companies
30 Jul 09 |  Business
France Telecom shelves $40bn bid
30 Jun 08 |  Business
France Telecom eyes Nordic rival
18 Apr 08 |  Business
Share sale dents France Telecom
25 Jun 07 |  Business

RELATED INTERNET LINKS
The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites


FEATURES, VIEWS, ANALYSIS
Has China's housing bubble burst?
How the world's oldest clove tree defied an empire
Why Royal Ballet principal Sergei Polunin quit

BBC navigation

BBC © 2014 The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.

Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific