Suicide spree hits France Telecom

In the past 20 months, 24 employees have killed themselves


Suicide spree hits France TelecomFrance Telecom has a problem—a suicide problem. Twenty-four employees at the third-largest telecommunications company in the world have committed suicide in the past 20 months. The reason, according to union representatives, is the unusually high stress levels employees endure at work. Circumstances surrounding some of the deaths have lent credence to this position: before one 52-year-old worker killed himself in July, he reportedly penned a note that read, “I am committing suicide because of my work at France Telecom. That’s the only reason.” A 32-year-old woman who leapt from her office building in front of her colleagues and a 51-year-old who jumped off a bridge in the Alps cited similar motivations.

Predictably, there were cheers last week when France Telecom’s second-in-command resigned. Louis-Pierre Wenes, nicknamed “cost-killer,” was behind a massive restructuring that saw the company lay off 22,000 employees between 2006 and 2008. (The French government even chimed in: a spokesman for the country’s ruling Union for a Popular Movement party applauded the resignation, calling it “a very important move.”) In addition, France Telecom announced it would suspend 500 job transfers, and offer staff counselling services and access to an emergency hotline.

According to the World Health Organization, in 2005 France experienced 17.6 suicides per 100,000 people. With a staff of 100,000, France Telecom maintains its suicide rate is not particularly unusual. And the company isn’t the first in France to be plagued by suicide: an inquiry into working conditions at automaker Renault, launched in 2007 after three workers at a single plant committed suicide in four months, concluded that the level of stress staff experience was four times the national average; Peugeot experienced six suicides the same year.


Suicide spree hits France Telecom

  1. It's nice that you picked this story up, but AFP covered it three weeks ago. I've got the article cut out, laminated, already used it in a lesson, and now it's posted on a wall in my classroom.

    I love Macleans, but perhaps you could be a little quicker on the uptake next time?

  2. Well written article Rachel!

  3. FYI Canada's suicide rate for 2005 was 11.5 persons per 100,000.

    using Stats Canada information.

  4. I'm surprised the same thing isn't happening at NBC Universal.

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