Fri, Jul 06, 2012 - Page 7 News List

France Telecom’s ex-boss investigated over suicides

AFP, PARIS

More former executives of France Telecom were scheduled to go before an investigating magistrate yesterday, a day after former company chief executive Didier Lombard was placed under investigation over a spate of suicides.

Lombard, who ran the company from 2005 to 2010, was told on Wednesday he was being investigated for workplace harassment and put on bail of 100,000 euros (US$125,000), his lawyer Jean Veil said.

Other senior executives, including the company’s former head of human resources Olivier Barberot, and former France Telecom No. 2 Louis-Pierre Wenes were scheduled to go before investigating magistrate Pascal Gand yesterday.

Representatives of the company are due to face the magistrate today and could be informed the firm itself has also been placed under investigation.

Lombard stepped down from his post in March 2010 after 35 suicides among employees of the company between 2008 and 2009.

During his time in charge, -Lombard oversaw a reorganization that involved the loss of 22,000 jobs between 2006 and 2008. In addition, more than 10,000 employees were switched to other jobs.

A statement from the SUD union, which in 2009 filed a complaint over the suicides, welcomed news about the Lombard probe.

Lombard, writing in the French newspaper Le Monde, denied the reorganization had contributed to the suicides.

However, a 2010 report by work inspectors highlighted what it said was management harassment of white-collar staff in particular, many of whom had been sidelined, urged to accept a career change or to leave the company.

France Telecom’s management methods had effectively undermined staff psychologically, “undermining their physical and mental health,” the report said.

Work inspector Sylvie Cattala wrote in a letter to a branch of the SUD union that between 2005 and 2009 management had repeatedly been warned of the dangers.

The formal investigation into the deaths at France Telecom was opened in April 2010 — the month after Lombard stepped down.

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