French phone operator hit by 24th suicide

France Telecom ordered to act 'more humanely' after another employee dies

An epidemic of suicides in one of France's largest companies claimed another victim yesterday when a 51-year-old man threw himself from a bridge. He become the 24th France Telecom employee to take his own life in the past 19 months.

The dead man, married with two children, left a note in his car blaming the "atmosphere at work" for his decision to leap from the bridge over a motorway near Alby-sur-Chéran in Haute-Savoie, in the French Alps.

Like many of the France Telecom suicides, the man had been asked to change jobs as part of a restructure of the once state-owned company. Earlier this month – after the 23rd suicide – the Labour Minister, Xavier Darcos, summoned the head of France Telecom and demanded a more "humane" approach to the rebuilding of a company in which the state is still the largest share-holder.

Trade union leaders said that the man who had taken his life in Haute-Savoie was known to have been "under pressure". He had been moved from a job dealing with business clients to a call-centre at Annecy which made "cold calls" to offer services to subscribers.

"This is shameful," Patrice Diochet, from the moderate CFTC Catholic trades union federation said yesterday. "He was working in a call-centre which was known to be insufferable. There was no interest in people as individuals, no humanity. They only cared about figures. The employees were treated like minced meat."

The prefecture, or national government offices for the region, said that the dead man had "left a letter for his wife in which he said that the atmosphere at work had driven him to this act".

After denying for months that a suicide problem existed, France Telecom agreed this month to halt all compulsory job changes and to appoint 200 new staff counsellors. Doubts remain about the nature of the epidemic or whether it should be considered an epidemic.

France Telecom employs just over 100,000 people in France. The French suicide rate is 26.4 a year for every 100,000 men and 9.2 per for every 100,000 women. On those figures, the company points out, the number of suicides in France Telecom since February 2008 is below the national average.

Psychologists have also suggested that the pattern of suicides may have been made worse by a "copy-cat effect" encouraged by media coverage. All the same, the government has let it be known to France Telecom senior management that something has to be done.

The company's president and chief executive, Didier Lombard, went directly to Annecy yesterday after the death became known. France Telecom was spun off as a publicly owned company in 1996. It has been restructuring to take account of consumers' move away from fixed land lines.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Arts and Entertainment
The Doctor and Clara have their first real heart to heart since he regenerated in 'Deep Breath'
TV
Life and Style
Apple showed no sign of losing its talent for product launches with the new, slightly larger iPhone 6 making headlines
techSecurity breaches and overhyped start-ups dominated a year in which very little changed (save the size of your phone)
Arts and Entertainment
Jamie Oliver
filmTV chef Jamie Oliver turned down role in The Hobbit
News
The official police photograph of Dustin Diamond taken after he was arrested in Wisconsin
peopleDownfall of the TV star charged with bar stabbing
PROMOTED VIDEO
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
Arts and Entertainment
Jeremy Clarkson, left, and Richard Hammond upset the locals in South America
tvReview: Top Gear team flee Patagonia as Christmas special reaches its climax in the style of Butch and Sundance
News
people
Sport
Ashley Barnes of Burnley scores their second goal
footballMan City vs Burnley match report
Arts and Entertainment
Peter Mayhew as Chewbacca alongside Harrison Ford's Han Solo in 'Star Wars'
film
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Man of action: Christian Bale stars in Exodus: Gods and Kings
film
Arts and Entertainment
Tracy Emin's 1998 piece 'My Bed' on display at Christie's
artOne expert claims she did not
Arts and Entertainment
Catherine (Sarah Lancashire) in Happy Valley ((C) Red Productions/Ben Blackall)
TV
News
Hackers revealed Oscar-winning actress Lawrence was paid less than her male co-stars in American Hustle
people
Arts and Entertainment
Clueless? Locked-door mysteries are the ultimate manifestation of the cerebral detective story
booksAs a new collection of the genre’s best is published, its editor explains the rules of engagement
Sport
Robin van Persie is blocked by Hugo Lloris
footballTottenham vs Manchester United match report
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Business Manager

£32000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Business Manager is required ...

Recruitment Genius: Operations Manager

£45000 - £55000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Panel & Cabinet Wireman

£20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Panel Wireman required for small electro...

Recruitment Genius: Electronics Test Engineer

£25000 - £27000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An SME based in East Cheshire, ...

Day In a Page

A timely reminder of the bloody anniversary we all forgot

A timely reminder of the bloody anniversary we all forgot

Who remembers that this week we enter the 150th anniversary year of the end of the American Civil War, asks Robert Fisk
Homeless Veterans appeal: Former soldiers pay their respects to a friend who also served

Homeless Veterans appeal

Former soldiers pay their respects to a friend who also served
Downfall of Dustin 'Screech' Diamond, the 'Saved By The Bell' star charged with bar stabbing

Scarred by the bell

The downfall of the TV star charged with bar stabbing
Why 2014 was a year of technological let-downs

Why 2014 was a year of technological let-downs

Security breaches and overhyped start-ups dominated a year in which very little changed (save the size of your phone)
Cuba's golf revolution: But will the revolutionary nation take 'bourgeois' game to its heart?

Will revolutionary Cuba take 'bourgeois' golf to its heart?

Fidel Castro ridiculed the game – but now investment in leisure resort projects is welcome
The Locked Room Mysteries: As a new collection of the genre’s best is published, its editor Otto Penzler explains the rules of engagement

The Locked Room Mysteries

As a new collection of the genre’s best is published, its editor explains the rules of engagement
Amy Adams on playing painter Margaret Keane in Tim Burton's Big Eyes

How I made myself Keane

Amy Adams hadn’t wanted to take the role of artist Margaret Keane, because she’d had enough of playing victims. But then she had a daughter, and saw the painter in a new light
Ed Richards: Parting view of Ofcom chief. . . we hate jokes on the disabled

Parting view of Ofcom chief... we hate jokes on the disabled

Bad language once got TV viewers irate, inciting calls to broadcasting switchboards. But now there is a worse offender, says retiring head of the media watchdog, Ed Richards
A look back at fashion in 2014: Wear in review

Wear in review

A look back at fashion in 2014
Ian Herbert: My 10 hopes for sport in 2015. Might just one of them happen?

Ian Herbert: My 10 hopes for sport in 2015

Might just one of them happen?
War with Isis: The West needs more than a White Knight

The West needs more than a White Knight

Despite billions spent on weapons, the US has not been able to counter Isis's gruesome tactics, says Patrick Cockburn
Return to Helmand: Private Davey Graham recalls the day he was shot by the Taliban

'The day I was shot by the Taliban'

Private Davey Graham was shot five times during an ambush in 2007 - it was the first, controversial photograph to show the dangers our soldiers faced in Helmand province
Revealed: the best and worst airlines for delays

Revealed: the best and worst airlines for delays

Many flyers are failing to claim compensation to which they are entitled, a new survey has found
The stories that defined 2014: From the Scottish independence referendum to the Ice Bucket Challenge, our writers voice their opinions

The stories that defined 2014

From the Scottish independence referendum to the Ice Bucket Challenge, our writers voice their opinions
Stoke-on-Trent becomes first British city to be classified as 'disaster resilient' by the United Nations

Disaster looming? Now you know where to head...

Which British city has become the first to be awarded special 'resilience' status by the UN?