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Suicides shock France's Disney park

Disneyland Paris is investigating after two park employees committed suicide in the past six weeks, under working conditions which a trade union described as "humiliating".

A Eurodisney chef hanged himself at his home near Paris last Friday, on the same day he was due to return to work after a period of sick leave. According to the Disneyland branch of the trade union federation, Force Ouvrière, the worker, in his 40s, had told colleagues he wanted to leave his job because he was struggling with demands to "increase figures with fewer resources".

Disneyland Paris directors have denied the suicide was work-related and said that it should not be made "a symbol of something it isn't." It added that the chef had been "highly appreciated by his managers" and well-integrated with fellow employees.

The company has organised a meeting with the chef's fellow employees to discuss the suicide and its possible causes.

Trade union representative, Mary Lyn Lesueur, acknowledged the man's personal problems contributed to his death but insisted that, "it's certain that there is a real management problem at Disney".

The worker was not the first Disneyland chef to commit suicide in recent weeks. On 21 February a 30-year-old chef de partie (line cook) from the park threw himself in front of a train after working in conditions which a trade union spokesman called "humiliating".

Only the day before, a 22-year-old employee had threatened to commit suicide within the park itself. Disneyland directors immediately voted to open an investigation to "identify possible factors of stress or harassment" which could have led to the first suicide.

Stress-related suicides became a much-discussed issue in France last year after it was revealed that France Télécom had been hit by a spate of suicides. Trade union leaders blamed job cuts and a brutal management culture at the company, where at least 44 members of staff have taken their own lives since 2008.

The French government approved Eurodisney's approach to work-related stress just days before the first suicide.