Workers at heart of France Tel plan

France Telecom will spend €900 million improving staff conditions over the next two years to prevent more suicides at the firm, plans unveiled yesterday reveal.
 
The money will be spent on improving social conditions, upgrading ageing and incompatible IT infrastructure and recruiting 10,000 new staff, and forms part of the telco’s strategy for the next five years.
 
CEO Stephane Richard’s Conquests 2015 strategy also includes a commitment to the networks business, plans to grow revenues through international acquisitions, and a target of growing the telco’s global subscriber base 100 million to 300 million by 2015.
 
“We will rediscover the strategic importance of networks in the years to come,” Richard told Bloomberg.
 
The firm will differentiate itself around quality of service during the period, improving customer satisfaction by helping them migrate to new services and offering better control over costs.
 
Acquisition targets will be in emerging markets, in-line with Richard’s previously announced goal of doubling revenues from developing countries within five years.
 
 
All new operations will carry the Orange brand, and the firm will deploy more solar-powered base stations to improve rural coverage, and submarine cable to boost Internet access.
 
Despite the investment, France Telecom says it will generate €8 billion in organic free cash-flow in 2010 and predicts the same for 2011, a financial presentation shows.
 
Although the plan was officially unveiled yesterday, details were leaked last week after pre-briefings with managers and unions.
 
France Telecom was rocked by a brace of employee suicides in 2008 and 2009, resulting in Richard taking over as CEO in February - a year earlier than planned.
 
Unions told Bloomberg management would have to be sincere about its plans to restore staff confidence, but cautioned it could take time to achieve.

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