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September 15, 2009

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Spate of suicides at telecoms giant prompts hotline

France Telecom is setting up a free telephone support line for stressed workers after a wave of suicides among its employees.

Last week it was reported that a woman jumped to her death out of a France Telecom office in Paris — the 23rd suicide or attempted suicide by an employee of the company in 18 months. It followed an incident on 9 September, when a man in the northern French town of Troyes stabbed himself during a meeting in which he told he was being relocated.

The catalogue of incidents led to a crisis meeting between the French labour minister, Xavier Darcos, and the president of France Telecom, Didier Lombard, in which the company agreed to set up a free hotline for workers to talk about stress issues.

The firm has also promised to offer more support to workers with serious psychological problems by strengthening its counselling service, and it has suspended internal job transfers until 31 October.

According to the BBC, unions claim that the chain of incidents is a result of heavy-handed management and organisational changes, which have effectively resulted in the forced transfer of staff to other parts of the company. However, France Telecom has disputed that the suicides are a direct result of its management practices or restructuring policy, and has suggested that most are linked to personal reasons.

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