Tuesday, 29 September 2009

Calls for France Télécom boss to resign as suicides reach 24

Regular readers of HR Case Studies will already be aware of the tragic cost of company restructuring at France Telecom, where there has been a rising number of suicides over recent months. The blame for these alarming statistics has been placed at the door of France Telecom’s 'modernisation' programme, which has seen 22,000 jobs lost and 10,000 people change jobs (often from a technical to a customer service or sales role).

In a further development today, Didier Lombard, the chief executive of France Télécom, faced calls for his resignation after another member of staff committed suicide yesterday, bringing the tally to 24 deaths in 18 months.

The latest in a list of deaths, which has shocked France and sparked debate over restructuring at the telecommunications giant, occurred on Monday when a 51-year-old employee killed himself in the French Alps. The man left a note blaming the ''atmosphere'' at work before throwing himself off a motorway bridge in Alby-sur-Chéran.

Like many of the suicide victims at the former state monopoly, he had recently switched jobs — in his case moving to a call centre where he had been given demanding performance objectives.

Visiting the site in Alby-sur-Chéran, Mr Lombard was booed by employees as he announced an end to the programme of compulsory job changes for managers. He also suspended staff performance indicators at the call centre, but failed to quell a storm of protest over the spate of suicides. The main Trade Union within France Telecom believe that the resignation of Mr Lombard is the only solution, but it seems that resignation is not on Mr Lombard’s agenda. The French government are already involved in the case, and ministers have urged a more ''humane'' approach to job changes at France Telecom, prompting Mr Lombard to hire 100 additional advisers in human resources and launch negotiations with unions on workplace stress.

France Télécom boss lambasted as suicides reach 24

1 comment:

  1. I’m not too familiar with French ways of working but I can’t imagine that Mr Lombard embarked on this “modernisation” programme of change without consulting with his management team and, I would presume, the unions. Interesting then that when things go pear shaped that he is being held up as the sacrificial head that will cure all ills.

    I hope that the suspension of staff performance indicators is to allow a review of said measures to ensure they are appropriate for the task in hand and not a move to get rid of such measures altogether. Organisations have to be able to measure performance without the threat of blood on their hands and presumably the litigation that will follow!!

    In previous articles you have spoken about the importance of exit interviews. Not sure if any of the 100 new HR Advisers profess to be Mediums but, in the absence of specific information about what made the atmosphere at work so intolerable that a plunge of a motorway bridge was preferable, then perhaps their first task should be to talk to the living to find out what life is really like.