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
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
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: Key Sales Account Manager - OTE £35,000

£25000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Have you got a proven track rec...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Executive - OTE £40,000

£15000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a great opportunity for...

Recruitment Genius: Senior Designer / Design Director

£38000 - £48000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This B2B content marketing agen...

Austen Lloyd: Law Costs HOD - Southampton

£50000 - £60000 per annum + Excellent Salary: Austen Lloyd: An outstanding new...

Day In a Page

Syrian conflict is the world's first 'climate change war', say scientists, but it won't be the last one

Climate change key in Syrian conflict

And it will trigger more war in future
How I outwitted the Gestapo

How I outwitted the Gestapo

My life as a Jew in wartime Berlin
The nation's favourite animal revealed

The nation's favourite animal revealed

Women like cuddly creatures whilst men like creepy-crawlies
Is this the way to get young people to vote?

Getting young people to vote

From #VOTESELFISH to Bite the Ballot
Poldark star Heida Reed: 'I don't think a single bodice gets ripped'

Poldark star Heida Reed

'I don't think a single bodice gets ripped'
The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

Netanyahu knows he can get away with anything in America, says Robert Fisk
Families clubbing together to build their own affordable accommodation

Do It Yourself approach to securing a new house

Community land trusts marking a new trend for taking the initiative away from developers
Head of WWF UK: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

David Nussbaum: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

The head of WWF UK remains sanguine despite the Government’s failure to live up to its pledges on the environment
Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Set in a mythologised 5th-century Britain, ‘The Buried Giant’ is a strange beast
With money, corruption and drugs, this monk fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’

Money, corruption and drugs

The monk who fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’
America's first slavery museum established at Django Unchained plantation - 150 years after slavery outlawed

150 years after it was outlawed...

... America's first slavery museum is established in Louisiana
Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

The first 'American Idol' winner on how she manages to remain her own woman – Jane Austen fascination and all
Tony Oursler on exploring our uneasy relationship with technology with his new show

You won't believe your eyes

Tony Oursler's new show explores our uneasy relationship with technology. He's one of a growing number of artists with that preoccupation
Ian Herbert: Peter Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

The England coach leaves players to find solutions - which makes you wonder where he adds value, says Ian Herbert
War with Isis: Fears that the looming battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

The battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

Aid agencies prepare for vast exodus following planned Iraqi offensive against the Isis-held city, reports Patrick Cockburn