French Government Tells Telecom to Explain 23 Staff Suicides

The French Government has summoned the chief of executive of France Télécom to a crisis meeting today amid claims that workplace stress is responsible for a series of suicides at the Gallic telecommunications firm.

With unions blaming the deaths on a malaise caused by restructuring, Didier Lombard will be asked to produce an urgent action plan when he meets Xavier Darcos, the Minister for Work.

The move comes after 23 suicides and 13 attempted suicides among France Telecom staff since February 2008.

Concern deepened further today when a manager in a customer service department in Metz in eastern France was found unconscious on the workplace floor after consuming barbitruates in an apparent attempt to take his own life, French radio reported.

The last victim was a 32-year-old employee at Orange, the operator's mobile telephone unit, who threw herself out of a fourth floor window at her office in Paris last week.

Her action came after a meeting to discuss reorganisation of her customer service department - adding weight to union claims that change in the working environment is one of the reasons behind the spate of suicides.

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