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French telecom firm, ex-CEO face trial over suicides

Paris, May 7 (IANS) French telecom company Orange and its former CEO have gone on trial in Paris, accused of pursuing a corporate strategy to to create an “anxiety-inducing work environment” that destabilised employees and resulted in a wave of suicides a decade ago, the media reported.

The trial of the company and former CEO Didier Lombard, began on Monday in Paris. Five other former executives, and one who still works for the company, are also being tried in the same case, CNN reported.

Some of the executives are accused of “psychological harassment”, while others face charges of “complicity”, according to a spokesperson for the prosecutors.

The prosecutors have alleged that there was the “corporate strategy” undermined the employees’ dignity, according to the spokesperson.

The labour union that represents Orange workers said that 19 workers committed suicide between 2007 and 2010. Another 12 employees attempted suicide during the time period.

The suicides coincided with a major restructuring of the telecom company that followed a privatisation and a government bail-out. Directed by Lombard, the overhaul aimed to reduce its workforce by 22,000 over three years.

The prosecutors opened the investigation into the suicides in 2009.

The trial is scheduled to last around two months and individuals found guilty could face jail time and fines.



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