Suicides halt France Telecom restructure

France Telecom has placed its corporate restructure on hold until year-end as it grapples with the backlash from a series of employee suicides.

The national carrier, which has come under fire from the union and the government following 25 staff suicides in the last 20 months, announced the halt to restructuring plans after the latest meeting with employee representatives.

In recent weeks France Telecom had agreed to suspend employee transfers and will extend the limitations to next year, following employee complaints that such moves helped prompt the drastic action taken by affected employees.

While France Telecom CEO Didier Lombard continues to take the heat for the mismanagement of the situation, he says that he will not resign and has vowed to stop the “spiral of death”.

Earlier in the month France Telecom deputy CEO Louis-Pierre Wenes did resign, but did not mention the scandal as the reason and was replaced by Stephane Richard, the head of international operations.

Wenes had originally drafted the plans to slash spending by €1.7 billion by the end of 2011. During 2006- 2008 the carrier reduced headcount by 22,000 with more restructuring still in the agenda.

Following government intervention and public fury, France Telecom has introduced enhanced measures to monitor and counsel staff affected by recent changes. In other attempts to quell employee angst, staff performance indicators at call centers have been suspended and over 100 additional human resources advisers have been brought on board.

Unions continue to hold protests at France Telecom sites around the country, calling for better work conditions.