Orange parent deals with suicides


Orange parent company France Telecom has announced new measures for the company’s operations following the spate of employee suicides that have made headlines over the past two months.

Following meetings with French trade unions, France Telecom has announced it has put a freeze on restructuring until December 31. It will also create 380 new jobs before the end of 2009, in technical and sales departments.

Outsourced activities to be brought back in house, equating to 1,000 full-time posts. It will also allow extra time to log on and off call centre information systems (10 minutes in the morning and 10 minutes in the evening); and 15 additional minutes each day to receive the day’s orders from the stores.

A company statement also hit out at two unions that did not participate in the meetings.

“France Telecom deplores the fact that representatives from the CFE-CGC union did not wish to take part in the day’s negotiations, and that SUD-PTT left at the start. France Telecom’s management call on these two trade unions to rejoin the negotiations on psycho-social risks, so that together an agreement can be reached that will benefit all France Telecom employees,” the company said.

The company added that in agreement with the other trade union organisations, it has been decided to accelerate the negotiation calendar, with the next meeting on the company’s psycho-social risks to take place next week. 

Orange UK has made clear that the issues facing France Telecom are not company wide and have no connection to company procedures in the UK. An Orange spokesperson said: “Whilst everyone is naturally concerned about the recent suicides, this is an issue specific to France. It is not at all comparable to the UK. France Telecom management is profoundly shaken by these recent events and has already undertaken a number of measures to improve things.”

A French trade union representative discussed further details of the France Telecom situation at a Communications Workers Union (CWU) conference earlier this month, which 13 Orange staff attended.

According to the CWU, some Plymouth call centre staff present at the meeting had complained of pressure to meet call time targets ahead of customer service levels. However Orange said no formal complaints had been made and there were plenty of internal avenues for staff to express any grievances.

An Orange spokesperson said: “Orange is one of the most flexible and progressive employers in Britain, fostering an atmosphere of teamwork, support, autonomy and mutual respect amongst its 12,500 employees.

“If any member of staff is unhappy with the working practices or process that we employ, then we have in place employee representatives (on the employee council, or ECON) who can instantly help them and help solve the situation.

“ECON has been a significant part of the Orange success story over the last 15 years and will continue to be so. They work with the management and executive team of Orange to ensure that employees are treated fairly and that any personnel or team issues are dealt with swiftly, and with the employee’s best interests at heart.”