France Telecom Confronts High Suicide Rates

In a sad reflection of the global recession’s effects, American news outlets Monday reported that 23 France Telecom (FTE) employees have killed themselves since February 2008, the latest suicides having happened last week.

France Telecom called all of its 20,000 managers into a teleconference today to “organize local team meetings to explain what happened and what’s being done, and to make sure that if there are problems they can be discussed,” a company spokesman told the Associated Press.

The meetings were held as France’s labor minister said he is investigating the high number of suicides.

On Friday, a 32-year old woman who worked in the debt-collection department for Orange, France Telecom’s mobile division, became the latest company employee to take her life. She threw herself out of her fourth-floor office window. The AP reported she had been involved in talks over restructuring services.

Two days earlier, another France Telecom worker stabbed himself in the stomach during a meeting after he’d been told his job was eliminated.

In late August, another employee, a 53-year-old technician who oversaw broadband transmission fittings, was found dead in his bed. Le Parisien said the man’s sister said the man left a letter citing “total disorganization” at France Telecom and blaming the company and job for his suicide. Le Monde reported the man’s supervisors asked him to improve his behavior.

Even though Europe is reported to be among the world’s first financial powers to emerge from the economic downturn, companies – France Telecom among them – still are cutting jobs and reorganizing. But the extreme distress is taking its toll in ways the carrier certainly did not anticipate. So now, in addition to mobilizing its upper echelons, France Telecom has suspended the 500 employee transfers that were in the works and is asking colleagues to be on the watch for signs of depression and suicidal tendencies among one another, AP reported.

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