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.

Emma Watson has become the latest target of the 4Chan nude hacking scandal
peopleThreats follows actress' speech on feminism and equality at the UN
Alan Bennett criticised the lack of fairness in British society encapsulated by the private school system
peopleBut he does like Stewart Lee
David Moyes and Louis van Gaal
Arts and Entertainment
Sheridan Smith as Cilla Black and Ed Stoppard as her manager Brian Epstein
tvCilla Episode 2 review: Grit under the glamour in part two of biopic series starring Sheridan Smith
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Life and Style
Life and Style
Alan Turing, who was convicted of gross indecency in 1952, was granted a royal pardon last year
Life and Style
Arts and Entertainment
Tennis player Andy Murray's mum Judy has been paired with Anton du Beke for Strictly Come Dancing. 'I'm absolutely delighted,' she said.
tvJudy Murray 'struggling' to let Anton Du Beke take control on Strictly
Life and Style
Vote with your wallet: the app can help shoppers feel more informed about items on sale
lifeNew app reveals political leanings of food companies
Arts and Entertainment
The cover of Dark Side of the Moon
musicCan 'The Endless River' carry on the tradition? See for yourself
New Zealand fly-half Aaron Cruden pictured in The Zookeeper's Son on a late-night drinking session
Arts and Entertainment
Worldwide ticket sales for The Lion King musical surpassed $6.2bn ($3.8bn) this summer
tvMusical is biggest grossing show or film in history
A new app has been launched that enables people to have a cuddle from a stranger
voicesMaybe the new app will make it more normal to reach out to strangers
Arts and Entertainment
Salmond told a Scottish television chat show in 2001that he would also sit in front of a mirror and say things like,
tvCelebrity Trekkies from Alex Salmond to Barack Obama
Life and Style
food + drink
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

IT Teacher

£85 - £125 per day: Randstad Education Chester: Job Opportunity for Secondary ...

Cover Supervisor

Negotiable: Randstad Education Chester: Job Opportunities for Cover Supervisor...

English and Drama Teacher needed in Wrexham

Negotiable: Randstad Education Chester: English Teacher needed in Wrexham The ...

English Teacher

Negotiable: Randstad Education Chester: English Teacher The school, the childW...

Day In a Page

Secret politics of the weekly shop

The politics of the weekly shop

New app reveals political leanings of food companies
Beam me up, Scottie!

Beam me up, Scottie!

Celebrity Trekkies from Alex Salmond to Barack Obama
Beware Wet Paint: The ICA's latest ambitious exhibition

Beware Wet Paint

The ICA's latest ambitious exhibition
Pink Floyd have produced some of rock's greatest ever album covers

Pink Floyd have produced some of rock's greatest ever album covers

Can 'The Endless River' carry on the tradition?
Sanctuary for the suicidal

Sanctuary for the suicidal

One mother's story of how London charity Maytree helped her son with his depression
A roller-coaster tale from the 'voice of a generation'

Not That Kind of Girl:

A roller-coaster tale from 'voice of a generation' Lena Dunham
London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice. In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence

London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice

In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence
Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with Malcolm McLaren

Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with McLaren

Designer 'felt pressured' into going out with Sex Pistols manager
Jourdan Dunn: Model mother

Model mother

Jordan Dunn became one of the best-paid models in the world
Apple still coolest brand – despite U2 PR disaster

Apple still the coolest brand

Despite PR disaster of free U2 album
Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits