If France Could Fire People There Would Be No Orange Suicide Case

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It appears that former management of Orange – France Telecom as then was – are guilty of creating such a toxic workplace that it led to people committing suicide.

The correct answer to which is allow companies to fire people and you’ll have peoples’ lives.

Former executives at France Télécom have been given prison sentences and fines after being found guilty of “institutional harassment” and creating a culture of routine workplace bullying that sparked a number of suicides at the company.

The landmark ruling is likely to send shockwaves through the French business world. It is the first time managers have been held criminally responsible for implementing a general strategy of bullying even if they had not dealt directly with the staff involved.

OK.

It’s worth pointing out that the “wave” of suicides is well within the normal statistical variation for a group of people that size. Each and every suicide is indeed a tragedy and yet they do happen. The French rate is some 15 per 100,000 per year, we’d thus expect around 15 suicides a year – around note, around – in a company France Telecom’s size. The rate being complained of wasn’t all that different from that.

But let’s ignore that and carry on with what is actually being claimed. The suicides were driven to it by those intolerable working conditions. And some of them appear to have been pretty bad:

For two and a half months, the court listened to the families of the victims and projected letters and photos on a giant screen. One read: “I am committing suicide because of my work at France Telecom, it’s the only cause.”

OK. So, why were they doing this?

Prosecutors say the management created a hostile work environment to get employees to quit, in a restructuring process that former employees allege became so severe that it led some staff to take their own life.

That’s the claim. But why in hell do it that way? Why not just fire people?

Because in France it’s damn near impossible to fire someone who has an employment contract. Thus the only way to downsize the workforce is to terrorise into people leaving. That’s actually the prosecution case.

And, well, shouldn’t we be blaming the laws which mean you can’t fire people? Or even, pointing out that if you can fire people then you don’t need to terrorise them into leaving?

But there we have it, workers’ rights, employment protection, they kill the workers. Not that anyone is going to take the correct message from this except us illuminati.

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Quentin Vole
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Quentin Vole

They asked them to work through lunch?

Mr Yan
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Mr Yan

Or in the afternoon.

Quentin Vole
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Quentin Vole

… or the morning.

Itellyounothing
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Itellyounothing

But not more than one of those options in one day.

Spike
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Spike

Odd, somehow the government won’t put the government on trial.

I consulted to a company whose Vice-President of Engineering was notorious for berating and ridiculing individuals during meetings. (No one died, but everyone thought it was a “toxic” environment.) But it was an airtight remedy to deliver promised reports on time, or inform him well in advance if this was impossible.

Esteban
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Esteban

Also note that the employees killed themselves rather than leave & go get another job. Curious if that also has something to do with French work regulations.

The Thought Gang
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The Thought Gang

The law is an ass. But it doesn’t justify the employer, presumably, breaking other laws in an effort to force people to quit. This is a big company. They can get meetings with the government. They can plead their case in the court of public opinion. If it doesn’t work out they can slowly go bust and say “we told you that would happen”. What they chose to do is take it out on the little guy.

Bloke on M4
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Bloke on M4

I suspect the truth is that people who commit suicide are people who were prone to being suicidal, less able to cope with stress than the norm. A stressful event: the company tries to fire them, their wife leaves them, their mother dies and the extra level of stress pushes them over the edge.

We know that most people don’t take this route.

bloke in spain
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bloke in spain

It probably does. Anyone familiar with the french employment scene will know how difficult it is to get a job. Employers are reluctant to employ because those regulations make it difficult to get rid of an employee once they’ve hired them. So the incentive is to stay with the job you’ve got rather than finding yourself permanently unemployed.

dodgy geezer
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dodgy geezer

“………fire people and you’ll have peoples’ lives.”

Possibly “fire people and you’ll save peoples’ lives?

Michael van der Riet
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Michael van der Riet

H and S are right next to each other on the keyboard. Easy mistake to make. (-sarc)

bloke in spain
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bloke in spain

A slight caveat about suicide rates. The 15/100,000 figure is for the whole population. This is going to include people who would be unlikely to be employed by FranceTelecom. Those with serious mental illness. Elderly who prefer to choose their own time to depart. People with untreatable & debilitating medical conditions. Those are just three groups I can immediately think of might have higher than average suicide rates. No doubt there are others. So one might expect Orange’s suicide rate to me markedly less than the population average.

bloke in spain
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bloke in spain

On the other hand, having at one time spent a considerable portion of my life hanging on to the Orange Customer Service Line waiting for what’s laughably called Customer Service, I’d think an investigation of suicide rates amongst Orange subscribers might show up some interesting data.

Michael van der Riet
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Michael van der Riet

Is it illegal in France to say, “Tu n’avais qu’un travail!!” Or is it adding “Crétin!!!!” the terror part?

Quentin Vole
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Quentin Vole

It’s a very arduous and lengthy process to sack someone, particularly in ‘large’ businesses (more than 50 employees), who are subject to vastly greater bureaucratic control. For these reasons, France has a lot of 49-person small employers who won’t grow to take on anyone else, and also a lot of contract workers.

Spike
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Spike

Likewise in the US; at 50 employees the untouched Obama-care Employer Mandate kicks in with obligatory fringe benefits.