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France Telecom bosses on trial after 19 workers take own lives

FORMER France Telecom chief executive Didier Lombard and six other managers face possible jail sentences as they stand trial over staff suicides at the company in the late 2000s.

They are accused of creating a culture of harassment at the firm, which was renamed Orange in 2013, leading to at least 19 workers taking their own lives.

The deaths followed an aggressive restructuring programme begun in 2006, shortly after the company was privatised. Mr Lombard planned to axe 22,000 jobs with a further 10,000 to be retrained.

Mr Lombard told senior managers in 2007: “I’ll get them out one way or another, through the window or through the door.”

The bosses who deny the charges are accused of “moral harassment” after they forced many members staff to work in demeaning roles and transferred some to posts away from their families.

At least 19 people committed suicide following the restructuring, with trade unions accusing bosses of pushing employees into unsuitable work to “break their health.”

CFDT union delegate to France Telecom’s works council Olivier Durand explained how there was a manager for every dozen people.

“Everything the employee does is counted — when they go to the toilet, when they eat, when they smoke a cigarette. The workers are even made to wear wireless ear and mouthpieces so they can deal with calls during their breaks,” he said.

An Orange spokesman said the company “rejects the accusations and will make its case during the public hearing which will be scheduled in the coming months.”

The bosses face two years in prison and a €30,000 fine if found guilty.


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