French govt intervenes over at-work suicides

France’s government has ordered an official to monitor France Telecom’s health and safety meetings, following 23 suicides among company employees since February 2008, the labour minister said today.

Minister Xavier Darcos said he wants monthly updates on the situation by the head of the body that oversees France’s labour inspectors.

Mr Darcos made the comments after an hour-long meeting with Didier Lombard, CEO of the formerly state-run France Telecom SA.

Mr Darcos did not acquiesce to a union demand that France Telecom halt its ongoing corporate restructuring, which the unions say could be to blame, along with layoffs, for some of the suicides by company employees.

Following the meeting, Mr Darcos noted the measures that France Telecom announced last week in response to the suicides, which include opening talks with unions on a charter on stress in the workplace, and the hiring of 100 additional human resource directors.

The latest suicide, and the one to spark top-level government concern, was that of a 32-year-old woman who jumped from a fourth-floor window of her office building in Paris on Friday.

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