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Economy

Unions criticise France Telecom suicide response plan

media France telecom employees rally in Annecy after a suicide in September 2009 Jean-Philippe Ksiazek/AFP

Trade union representatives at France Telecom criticised a plan set out by management this week to address aspects of working in the company that lead to 35 suicides over the past two years. Unions have blamed work conditions for the wave of suicides.

Among the proposals put forth in the plan presented Thursday, the global telecommunications giant said it would recruit 3,500 people in 2010, and that it would make job transfers voluntary and not mandatory.

The company’s 1,100 managers, including the CEO, Stéphane Richard, would see some 30 to 50 per cent of their salaries based not just on economic performance, but on social performance, including things like employee attendance and satisfaction.

Additionally, the group will provide managers with sensitivity training, and it would decentralise many decisions that previously would have been taken on a national level.

Richard said the plan was “the company’s response in the face of the social crisis we’ve just been through and that we continue to go through.”

But union leaders expressed doubts.

"There is not much new," Patrick Ackermann of the Sud-PTT union said Saturday. “It is not very bold. It’s shallow.” He also criticised the lack of figures for the plan.

Nabyl Beldjoudi of the Force Ouvriere union said the plan seemed like emergency measures, but four months too late, and he deplores the lack of a "national plan to prevent psycho-social risks."

However, both unions noted acknowledged the plan was charting new territory.

Pierre Dubois of the CFDT union said the plan is going in the right direction, though he is not sure there will be enough people hired to re-establish decent working conditions.

The consulting group Technologia, which was tasked with analysing the company offered 107 proposals at the beginning of March to reduce employees’ stress. These included putting in place mediators, and reforming management and human resources.

CEO Richard said some of the recommendations made sense, but others would be difficult to implement or not welcomed, like the idea of mediators.

According to a watchdog group formed by the three unions to monitor stress, eleven France Telecom employees have killed themselves since January.
 

 
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