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France Telecom blamed for another worker suicide

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French politicians are calling on ex-monopoly France Telecoms to do more to stop a rash of suicides and attempted suicides among its staff.

The latest was call centre worker Jean-Paul Rouannet, who jumped off a road bridge in the Alps on Monday, bringing total deaths amongst the telco's workforce to 24 in two years.

The man left a note for his wife and two children blaming pressure at work. He had recently been moved from working on large accounts to a reactive customer service and sales call centre. Friends told The Independent that he had trouble dealing with targets he was meant to hit and had been abandoned by the firm.

FT's chief executive Didier Lombard has already ordered changes to working practices and an end to "personal and geographical mobility" - several cases have involved recently moved staff. The company is putting in place a new social contract, a company-wide "stress audit" and a phone helpline for staff to talk to psychologists.

Lombard said at the time: "December's France Telecom will not be the France Telecom of today."

But union bosses and opposition politicians are calling on Lombard to take responsibility for the deaths and resign.

The company has 100,000 staff and insists that its suicide rate is not vastly different to that of France overall. But some see problems with people who were effectively civil servants being forced to work to targets and under what might seem like normal pressures for private sector staff.

The World Health Organisation gives French suicide rates of 17.6 in 2005, down from a high of 22.5 per 100,000 in 1985. ®

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