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France - workplace suicides

France Télécom moves to end worker deaths

Article published on the 2009-10-07 Latest update 2009-10-07 12:40 TU

France Telecom Chief Executive Didier Lombard (R) and new deputy CEO Stephane Richard (L) at a meeting with unions(Photo: Reuters)

France Telecom Chief Executive Didier Lombard (R) and new deputy CEO Stephane Richard (L) at a meeting with unions
(Photo: Reuters)

French telephone company, France Télécom, has promised to improve working conditions, after a spate of suicides in its workforce. Unions demonstrate Wednesday on the second day protest at a crisis in worker-management relations.

After worker protests over 24 workers killing themselves in 18 months, France Télécom boss Didier Lombard says he wants a “new social contract” with trade unions.

Suicide notes have blamed high levels of work stress on workers’ decisions to end their lives and Lombard, whose number two resigned on Tuesday, has promised to ease up on workforce mobility, which has been a major bone of contention.

A major restructuring project at France Télécom has led to employees being moved across the country.

Now Lombard has announced a freeze on compulsory moves until December and promised workers that they can stay put for three years after changing area.

And workers within three years of retirement age will not be forced to move.

The response from the unions was cautiously optimistic. Sandrine Leroy, from the Force Ouvrière union, told the Nouvel Observateur magazine that “the tone had changed” and that the management’s proposals are: “a basis which we will try to improve”.

A strike and day of action continued Wednesday. On Tuesday between 15 and 40 per cent of the firm’s 100,000 workers took part in the strike, according to differing management and union estimates.

Management claimed that fewer workers went on strike Wednesday and suggested that this is a positive response to its proposals. 

The latest victim of the suicides was a 51-year-old father of two, who jumped to his death at the end of last month.