Orange parent faces unions


Executives from Orange parent company France Telecom met with French trade unions this week to discuss the group’s social policy following yet another employee suicide last week.

There have been 24 suicides at France Telecom since the beginning of 2008 and 13 attempts. The unions have blamed the company’s restructuring and harsh working conditions for rising stress levels among workers.

France Telecom chief executive Didier Lombard (pictured), his deputy Louis-Pierre Wenes and senior executive vice president of group human resources Olivier Barberot met with unions to explain the latest in the group’s social policy.

The company has since decided to prepare a report scheduled for release on October 31 and confirmed that no new staff reduction targets have been set.

Said Lombard: “My responsibility today is to mobilise the entire company to ensure that any further tragedies are prevented. I have known this group for 40 years. I know that our people are suffering in the present situation but have the desire to resume on a better footing. This is why we need to build together, as quickly as possible, a new social contract for France Telecom.”

Lombard has faced calls for his early resignation in France as a result of the suicides, along with allegations that management practices pushed some vulnerable staff members to the edge.

France Telecom is still 27 per cent-owned by the French government, and 65 percent of its estimated 100,000 employees are classed as civil servants.

Media reports say Lombard has been told by the company’s social affairs committee “to take more account of the human factor in work organisation”. He has also been criticised by union leaders for his slow response to the problem.

Lombard is due to stand down in 2011 when he will be replaced by deputy chief executive of international operations Stéphane Richard.