French Telecom Suicides Spark Official Unease

Firm's chief to meet with labor minister
By Wesley Oliver,  Newser Staff
Posted Sep 12, 2009 4:54 PM CDT
France Telecom CEO Didier Lombard will meet with French Labour Minister Xavier Darcos to discuss a number of suicides among its staff.   (AP Photo/Christophe Ena)
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(Newser) – A spate of suicides by workers at a French telecommunications company is prompting a meeting between the firm's CEO and France's labor minister, the BBC reports. Since last year, 23 employees of France Telecom have killed themselves; unions blame tough management practices, but the firm, which was privatized in 1998, maintains that its suicide count is normal for a company with a workforce of 100,000.

Yesterday marked the latest suicide when an employee leaped to her death in Paris. Earlier this week, a 49-year-old man plunged a knife into his stomach after learning that he was being transferred; he is now recovering at a hospital. Unions say the firm’s transition to a private company has stressed out employees. France Telecom is promising to hire more counselors to help staffers but insists most suicides stem from personal, not professional, causes.