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corporate dominance | health

France Telecom - Suicides by people who do nothing and make a living at it

"Given Europe's fiscal crisis, which is creeping up from the near-bankrupt countries of the Mediterranean (Portugal, Italy, Greece, Spain, now dubbed the "PIGS" by Wall Street wits), the downsizing of France Telecom will be repeated throughout the risk-averse continent."

wow. a new association for the term -- PIGS.
The Case of France Telecom

From Asia Times Online, the general argument of the article is that RELIGION has something to do with it. I believe the suicides are a phenomenon worth noting.

[2008-2009, France Telecom dismissed 22,000 employees -- 32 staffers to kill themselves over the past two years]

Excerpts from article titled: A Commedia for our times

... two dozen suicides in 2009 at France Telecom, the dullest place in the habitable world, where people go to do nothing and make a living at it. Twenty-four employees at the French monopoly killed themselves in the past 18 months, and another 13 have attempted suicide. The France Telecom suicide wave - the subject of endless public controversy in France - is one of the iconic events of 2009, the sociological quirk that sets in relief the mortal flaw in the Western character.

But the global economic crisis has shaken the foundations of state finances in Europe, and bloated entities such as France Telecom must adjust. A consistent pattern informs the suicide notes of France Telecom workers: the fear of downsizing, demotion and reassignment is too much for them to bear. The desire for security is an addiction: the more security one obtains, the less secure one feels.

France Telecom management "had argued, quite reasonably, that the company had to move with the times: customer demand for mobile phones rather than fixed lines meant massive restructuring was inevitable", wrote Gill Corkingdale in her Harvard Business School blog. "The company avoided imposing mass redundancies, but asked staff to retrain for Orange call centers and, in some cases, change locations. Fairly reasonable, you might think. Yet this did not stop one worker from stabbing himself repeatedly in the stomach when he was told he was being transferred to another post in the same town."

Although the company went private long ago, telephone workers are considered government employees. Two-thirds of them have civil-service status and cannot be fired. Nonetheless, the monopoly cut 22,000 jobs between 2006 and 2008 and reassigned many more workers to menial jobs with longer hours. ''Engineers who spent 20 years doing repairs to phone lines are being reassigned to work in call centers, and some of them struggle with the change,'' France Telecom physician Monique Fraysse-Guigline told London's The Times last September 14.

On September 28, for example, a 51-year-old France Telecom employee left a note complaining that he could not bear his new assignment to a call center and jumped off a highway bridge into rush-hour traffic. In July, a telephone worker in Marseille left a suicide note stating, "Overwork, stress, absence of training and total disorganization in the company. I'm a wreck, it's better to end it all."

The dead worker's sister told The Guardian newspaper on September 18: "There was this pressure from the top to slim down operations by destabilizing workers; people were undermined to the point that they got ill. He told me he was regularly sent messages from managers suggesting he find work elsewhere. Once they suggested he open a rural guesthouse. He accepted a far too heavy workload out of fear of losing his senior job. He had no other problems, no money worries, no family concerns."

A healthy middle-aged man - he ran in marathons as a hobby - with no money problems could not bear the thought of losing an overpaid sinecure at the phone company. For the fretful French, The Guardian wrote, his "suicide note has become the defining message from the grave".