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
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Life and Style
techPatent specifies 'anthropomorphic device' to control media devices
Voices
The PM proposed 'commonsense restrictions' on migrant benefits
voicesAndrew Grice: Prime Minister can talk 'one nation Conservatism' but putting it into action will be tougher
News
Ireland will not find out whether gay couples have won the right to marry until Saturday afternoon
news
News
Kim Jong-un's brother Kim Jong-chol
news
News
Manchester city skyline as seen from Oldham above the streets of terraced houses in North West England on 7 April 2015.
news
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

Guru Careers: Software Developer / C# Developer

£40-50K: Guru Careers: We are seeking an experienced Software / C# Developer w...

Guru Careers: Software Developer

£35 - 40k + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Software Developer (JavaS...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant / Resourcer

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Commission: SThree: As a Trainee Recruitment Consu...

Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, HTML, CSS, JavaScript, AngularJS)

£25000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, JavaScript, HTML...

Day In a Page

Sun, sex and an anthropological study: One British academic's summer of hell in Magaluf

Sun, sex and an anthropological study

One academic’s summer of hell in Magaluf
From Shakespeare to Rising Damp... to Vicious

Frances de la Tour's 50-year triumph

'Rising Damp' brought De la Tour such recognition that she could be forgiven if she'd never been able to move on. But at 70, she continues to flourish - and to beguile
'That Whitsun, I was late getting away...'

Ian McMillan on the Whitsun Weddings

This weekend is Whitsun, and while the festival may no longer resonate, Larkin's best-loved poem, lives on - along with the train journey at the heart of it
Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath in a new light

Songs from the bell jar

Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath
How one man's day in high heels showed him that Cannes must change its 'no flats' policy

One man's day in high heels

...showed him that Cannes must change its 'flats' policy
Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

End of the Aussie brain drain

More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

Can meditation be bad for you?

Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine
Letterman's final Late Show: Laughter, but no tears, as David takes his bow after 33 years

Laughter, but no tears, as Letterman takes his bow after 33 years

Veteran talkshow host steps down to plaudits from four presidents
Ivor Novello Awards 2015: Hozier wins with anti-Catholic song 'Take Me To Church' as John Whittingdale leads praise for Black Sabbath

Hozier's 'blasphemous' song takes Novello award

Singer joins Ed Sheeran and Clean Bandit in celebration of the best in British and Irish music
Tequila gold rush: The spirit has gone from a cheap shot to a multi-billion pound product

Join the tequila gold rush

The spirit has gone from a cheap shot to a multi-billion pound product
12 best statement wallpapers

12 best statement wallpapers

Make an impact and transform a room with a conversation-starting pattern
Paul Scholes column: Does David De Gea really want to leave Manchester United to fight it out for the No 1 spot at Real Madrid?

Paul Scholes column

Does David De Gea really want to leave Manchester United to fight it out for the No 1 spot at Real Madrid?