Page last updated at 12:54 GMT, Monday, 5 October 2009 13:54 UK

Telecom boss quits in suicide row

Louis-Pierre Wenes, March 2007
Mr Wenes had been under pressure to resign

France Telecom's second-in-command has resigned, after weeks of criticism over management's handling of a spate of suicides by employees.

Deputy CEO Louis-Pierre Wenes, 60, will be replaced by Stephane Richard, head of international operations, France Telecom said in a statement.

Unions blame restructuring at the firm for some of the 24 suicides by company employees in the last 20 months.

France Telecom says the suicide rate is not unusual for a company of its size.

The company laid off some 22,000 people in the years 2006-2008.

'Spiral of death'

Mr Wenes and current chief executive Didier Lombard had faced calls to resign, but Mr Lombard retains the support of the French government, which still owns 27% of the firm.

Last month, Mr Lombard vowed to end the "spiral of death" at the firm by setting up a helpline, offering more psychological counselling and suspending all staff transfers.

A spokesman for the CGC-UNSA union welcomed Mr Wenes' departure.

"We think that now conditions have been met for a change of strategy," Sebastien Crozier told the Associated Press news agency.

French unions have been demanding an end to the restructuring and any further outsourcing.

The most recent suicide came last week, when a 51-year-old father of two jumped to his death from a motorway overpass. He left a suicide note blaming the "atmosphere" at work.

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