France Telecom once again faces scrutiny for the spate of employee suicides it’s seen since 2008.
On Thursday, a prosecutor in France ordered an investigation into claims that managers’ harassment, spurred by stressful corporate restructuring, led to the more than two dozen self-inflicted deaths. About 22,000 people have lost their jobs since 2006 after France Telecom went from being state-run to privately owned. The change came as a shock to staffers who were accustomed to iron-clad job protections, including relatively short work weeks and generous vacation time.
“At one time, there was an intention to create a sense of frustration so employees would leave. The problem was that it worked too well,” Jean-Paul Teissonniere, a lawyer for the union that filed the complaint, told The Associated Press.
A France Telecom lawyer disagreed.
“One cannot talk about a policy of moral harassment, each suicide must be put in its context,” Claudia Chemarin also told the newswire.
The deaths prompted France government leaders to look into problems at France Telecom. The country’s labor inspector found that 14 cases of suicide, attempted suicide or depression are directly linked to pressure to change jobs or carry out “devaluing” tasks.
The service provider has since placed restructuring efforts on hold and changed some rules. Chairman Didier Lombard also resigned as CEO last month; Stephane Richard now heads the company.