Connected Research

Union policy research in the 21st century

France Telecom unions call days of action on suicides

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The six unions in France Telecom have called for two days of action this week to protest at the rate of suicides taking place in the company, which now total 24 in the last 18 months, many – including the latest – having blamed the climate inside the company. The latest days of action are to take place on 6 and 7 October, the latter coinciding with the World Day for Decent Work, and follow other industrial action which has taken place demanding ‘profound and permanent’ change  in France Telecom’s continued restructuring programme.

The restructuring of the company has hit the company’s managers particularly hard since, under the company’s ‘time to move’ programme, the suspension of which had already been extended from the end of October until the end of the year (see related post below), managers are relocated every three years – and many more frequently – in efficiency measures to respond to changing patterns of demand. Many are moved to call centres with little training and into jobs for which they are ill-suited.

Pressure brought by the workers on the company has yielded results and, in addition to other changes, the company has appointed a supervisor to monitor the internal re-shuffling of jobs [registration required; limited viewing time]. Furthermore, at a meeting with unions yesterday, Didier Lombard, the company’s current chief executive, is reported to have confirmed that ‘mobility is not a dogma’ and, therefore, the end of the systematic moving of managers every three years. In the future, rotational moves would not be compulsory while Lombard committed himself also to a more humane working environment [registration required; limited viewing time] to end stress at work.

The most recent suicide has prompted the resignation of France Telecom’s deputy chief executive, a move which a representative of one of the France Telecom unions stated had created the conditions for a change of strategy and as a first step in rebuilding a minimum of trust [registration required; limited viewing time] between company and employees. French politicians have previously backed Didier Lombard in this ‘difficult and painful’ period [registration required; limited viewing time], despite calls from unions for his dismissal. As some have noted, Lombard has been in post for five years already…

At stake remains how, in a world hit by recession, we deal with change and how we organise society in the light of that: a continuation of the old ways or a profound re-thinking of them in accordance with the new times in which we live.

[Edited on 7 October with new details]

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Written by Calvin

05/10/2009 at 1:23 pm

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