Connected Research

Union policy research in the 21st century

‘Radical change’ called for in France Telecom

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An interim report commissioned by France Telecom is reported to have said that the company has only ‘a few weeks’ to put new HR practices in place following the recent spate of suicides in the company. The report advises the new management team at the company, which took place at the start of March, of the need to ‘take charge and encourage radical change’ at the company if it is to recover its former status.

The report, which does not yet appear to have been leaked in full but which has been confirmed as authentic, has been seen by French and international newspapers. It has been commissioned from an organisation called Technologia whose motto is ‘Health and safety at the heart of decision-making’. In reaching an agreement with most of its trade unions last November, now ratified, France Telecom has already sought to put an end to some of the practices which had been believed to have led to the rise in the number of suicides, which now number 43 since January 2008 and including at least eight since the start of 2010. Nevertheless, the Technologia report, based on a series of 500 interviews with France Telecom employees, makes a series of 107 recommendations to address the crisis, calling in particular on the company to:

Implement a moratorium on reorganizations, closely monitor psychosocial risk factors and create an internal network of mediators to make the personnel department more accessible

– and all on the basis that ‘actions [need to] accompany all the talk‘. The report also calls on the company to institute a network of mediators, 30% external and 70% from inside France Telecom, whose role would be to listen to employees in difficulty and to play a ‘real role of arbitration’, and to undertake mobility moves only where the usefulness of such a move had been tested to the limits and where the employee concerned was provided with a supporting mentor.

The Technologia report is now being discussed with the unions representing France Telecom employees.

Further, it also emerged at the weekend that the Labour Inspectorate has lodged with the Paris prosecutor’s office an 82-page report condemning practices at the company as bullying behaviour likely to endanger the lives of others in the workplace, and which it believed to have stemmed from decisions taken at the highest level of the group.

Both the Technologia report and the Labour Inspectorate one are clearly critical of the approach of the company’s senior management and provide the trade unions with significant additional power in their continuing battle with France Telecom over its reorganisation. Technologia’s page on psycho-social hazards speaks of its role in terms of ‘the resumption of dialogue and building a relationship of trust between the social partners’; that’s likely to be a mighty hard row to hoe in France Telecom, but an approach rooted in the dignity of labour, and which actively promotes the needs of employees, not least in a mental health setting, in corporate restructuring situations has a lot to commend itself.

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Written by Calvin

15/03/2010 at 12:08 pm

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