Mobile giant Orange hit by ‘suicide epidemic’ as 10 employees take their own lives in seven weeks

Union leaders call on the company to reconsider plans to slash its workforce by almost a third in the next six years

Paris

Ten employees of Orange,  the French telecoms giant, have committed suicide in  the space of seven weeks, raising new questions about a company afflicted by an alleged “suicide epidemic” four years ago.

Union leaders described the deaths as an “alarm bell” and called on the company to reconsider plans to slash its workforce by almost a third in the next six years. The company – formerly France Telecom – promised continued “vigilance” but pointed out that staff surveys showed a steep increase in job satisfaction and a substantial decline of stress since 2009.

Sociologists said that talk of a suicide epidemic at Orange, either now or in 2008-9, was misleading. Statistics were valuable only if averaged out over four or five years, they said, and the longer-term suicide rate among employees of Orange is little different to the French average, which is admittedly one of the highest in Europe.

Between 14 January and 6 March this year, 10 staff of Orange, all working in different offices around France, took their own lives. This compares with 11 suicides among Orange employees in the whole of last year and 12 deaths in 2012. Of the 10 suicides this year, union officials say that two were “clearly connected with events in private lives”. But the remainder appear, on the surface, to be related to workplace stress.

“We are simply sounding an alarm bell,” said Patrick Ackermann, of the SUD trades union federation. “To have so many deaths in so short a period is deeply worrying. Of course, the causes need to be examined further but we believe management must think again about its recruitment policy. The pressures on people at work are sometimes unbearable.”

In 2008-09, over a period of about 10 months, 35 employees of the former state-owned France Telecom took their own lives. The deaths caused a political and media storm. The firm’s president and chief executive, Didier Lombard, was forced to resign.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
  • Get to the point
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: Senior Digital Marketing Consultant

£28000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Senior Digital Marketing Cons...

Recruitment Genius: Assistant Stores Keeper

£16640 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An Assistant Stores Keeper is r...

Recruitment Genius: Claims Administrator

£16000 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an excellent opportunit...

Recruitment Genius: Software Developer - C# / ASP.NET / SQL

£17000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Developer required to join a bu...

Day In a Page

'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
Welcome to the world of Megagames

Welcome to the world of Megagames

300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

Vince Cable exclusive interview

Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
Russell Brand's interview with Ed Miliband has got everyone talking about The Trews

Everyone is talking about The Trews

Russell Brand's 'true news' videos attract millions of viewers. But today's 'Milibrand' interview introduced his resolutely amateurish style to a whole new crowd
Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

It's time for my close-up

Meet the man who films great whites for a living
Increasing numbers of homeless people in America keep their mobile phones on the streets

Homeless people keep mobile phones

A homeless person with a smartphone is a common sight in the US. And that's creating a network where the 'hobo' community can share information - and fight stigma - like never before
'Queer saint' Peter Watson left his mark on British culture by bankrolling artworld giants

'Queer saint' who bankrolled artworld giants

British culture owes a huge debt to Peter Watson, says Michael Prodger
Pushkin Prizes: Unusual exchange programme aims to bring countries together through culture

Pushkin Prizes brings countries together

Ten Scottish schoolchildren and their Russian peers attended a creative writing workshop in the Highlands this week
14 best kids' hoodies

14 best kids' hoodies

Don't get caught out by that wind on the beach. Zip them up in a lightweight top to see them through summer to autumn
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The acceptable face of the Emirates

The acceptable face of the Emirates

Has Abu Dhabi found a way to blend petrodollars with principles, asks Robert Fisk