France Telecom Worker Jumps Off Bridge, Is 24th Suicide

Yet another distraught France Telecom employee has committed suicide, blaming the workplace “atmosphere” for his death.

The 51-year-old man jumped off a highway overpass during morning rush hour on Monday. He worked in the Annecy call center in the eastern Haute-Savoie region; the man left a note in his car stating that France Telecom’s treatment of workers led to his decision to kill himself.

The man’s suicide marks the 24th at France Telecom in 18 months. France Telecom’s CEO Didier Lombard rushed to the Annecy call center after news of the employee’s death broke.

This latest suicide surely will add fuel to the France labor minister’s fire – Xavier Darcos has put an official monitor in place to police France Telecom’s health and safety meetings.

France Telecom has laid off 22,000 people between 2006 and 2008. Union officials say France Telecom, now that it’s only partly state-owned, has placed far too much emphasis on the bottom line, leading to rampant complaints of stress among workers and “unbearable” conditions.

The Associated Press pointed out that France Telecom employs 100,000 people. That means the suicide rate among its staff isn’t much higher than in the general population; several of the victims, however, killed themselves at work or after blaming the company for their suicides, the AP noted.

Agence France-Presse quoted local union leader Patrice Diochet as saying the man who killed himself had recently been transferred to the Annecy call centre from an after-sales unit. He apparently had been singled out as being “emotionally fragile.”

“It’s shameful. He worked in a service long known to be unbearable,” Diochet told Agence France-Press. “There was a real indifference, no humanity, all they talked about was numbers and workers were treated like sausage meat. We thought management would have learned a lesson.”

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