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French telecom giant Orange on trial over staff suicides

Published: May 6, 2019
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Source: apnews.com

PARIS (AP) — The toll is shocking: 19 suicides, 12 suicide attempts and eight cases of serious depression among employees over a three-year span at France’s main telephone and internet company.

A long-awaited trial began Monday in Paris accusing telecom giant Orange and seven former or current managers of moral harassment and related charges. The company — then called France Telecom — was undergoing job cuts and modernization efforts at the time of the suicides a decade ago.

Unions say France’s big companies haven’t learned any lessons from what happened at France Telecom, and about 200 activists demonstrated outside the courthouse Monday to urge a conviction.

The defendants include the former president of France Telecom, Didier Lombard, former human resources director Olivier Barberot and former deputy executive director Louis-Pierre Wenes. They spoke briefly one by one Monday at the trial, which is the largest to date in France for moral harassment on a company-wide scale.

The defendants are suspected of having “degraded work conditions of personnel that risked hurting their rights and dignity, altering the physical or mental health (of personnel), or compromising their professional future.”

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