Saturday, September 12, 2009

The deadliest job

For sheer, literally lethal awfulness in a working environment, you just can't beat the privatized telecom industry.

I spent five years in it and five months on the picket line at the end of it - losing about 40 pounds in the process - I can't recommend the crippling stress diet though. I stayed as long as I did because I was a shop steward and local delegate fighting stuff like employees being cheated out of health benefits and facing huge medical bills and older workers dealing with daily management harassment to try to get them to quit. I've recently been given reason to remember that utter disregard for their employees.

I've never worked in a more toxic environment with a more amoral and predatory management class before or since. It turns out the contempt I saw daily for employees, customers and basic standards of human decency is a norm for the industry worldwide.

French Labour Minister Xavier Darcos is to meet the head of the country's main telecommunications company to discuss a number of suicides among its staff.

Twenty-three employees of France Telecom have killed themselves since the beginning of 2008.

Unions blame tough management methods at the multinational, which was privatised in 1998.

But France Telecom says the rate of suicides is statistically not unusual for a company with a 100,000 workforce.

According to the World Health Organization, France had an annual suicide rate of 26.4 for 100,000 men in 2008. The rate for women was 9.2 suicides per 100,000.

The latest suicide occurred on Friday, when a 32-year-old woman leapt to her death at a France Telecom office in Paris.

On Wednesday, a 49-year-old man in Troyes, east of Paris, plunged a knife into his own stomach during a meeting in which he had been told he was being transferred.

He is being treated in hospital.

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