December 20, 2019

In France, the "ex-boss of France Télécom" has been sent to prison for a year after his approach to restructuring the company was found to have led to 19 suicides and 12 attempted suicides.

BBC reports.
It is the first time that a French court has recognised "institutional harassment"...

[Didier] Lombard was trying to cut 22,000 jobs and retrain at least 10,000 workers. Some employees were transferred away from their families or left behind when offices were moved, or assigned demeaning jobs.

"I'll get them out one way or another, through the window or through the door," Lombard was quoted as telling senior managers in 2007. He accepted that the restructuring had upset employees, but rejected the idea that it had led to people taking their own lives.

61 comments:

Lucien said...

Oh the brutality of Capitalism! Come and see the violence inherent in the system!

gahrie said...

WTF?

rehajm said...

It’s REALLY hard to fire someone in France...nay, IM-POSS-CEE-BULL.

Kevin said...

How long until “institutional harassment” just means cutting jobs?

rehajm said...

In France there’s just enough capitalism to cover for the tragedies of socialism

Nonapod said...

I'm unfamiliar with Frances labor laws, but I assume that just firing them would've been much more costly?

rehajm said...

It’s like how Massachusetts has a Republican governor- you need a scapegoat.

Dave Begley said...

I would hate to be this guy's criminal defense lawyer.

JohnAnnArbor said...

What, they just did a statistical analysis and said there was an excess of suicides, therefore GUILTY?

Really? Correlation does not equal causation, for starters. And I'm assuming the correlation was properly calculated.

daskol said...

Director Luc Besson, besides facing accusations of sexual harassment, the collapse of his studio in the wake of several badly performing films, is also looking at criminal conviction and suspended sentence for firing his assistant. Labor laws in France indeed make it very difficult to cut staff. It's a rather extraordinary story in that not only did he need to cut staff because of financial underperformance and bankruptcy of his studio, but it sounds like this employee was underperforming badly. Compare to the Curb Your Enthusiasm episode where they keep fobbing a terrible personal assistant on one another because nobody can bring himself to fire her.

rehajm said...

I like how the Trump administration is toying with this strategy to smoke out government bloat. Deep state will demand the same consequences...nay LE GUILLOTINE!

Aunty Trump said...

The old telecom monopolies led to a lot of featherbedding. When I worked in that industry I remember that there was one startup out in California that had maybe a dozen employees which did more traffic volume that some of the state monopolies in smaller countries. I remember working at one of those state licensed operators and as I walked to my workspace, I passed empty office after empty office, but all of them were assigned to people who collected paychecks every week. Politically connected people. Our software allowed a company to operate with many fewer employees and I remember during the demo, we had hooked it up to their live traffic, we were showing managers things that were costing that company money that simply showed up in just a few minutes. They were amazed. They also kicked us out after a year because of politics and because nobody wanted to simplify operations and run the company more efficiently with fewer workers when they had a state granted monopoly and could simply raise prices.

The only thing the senior managers were really interested in was could we block people from making calls to and from their country who were doing it by using the internet and bypassing them. Of course that’s not impossible, but it’s incredibly expensive.

daskol said...

The perversity of it being so difficult to cut staff means that there really are many cases of people being assigned demeaning work and otherwise made to suffer so that they'll leave voluntarily. A large company with which I'm familiar moves software developers past their prime, and unfamiliar with the tech stack of their new products, into mailroom jobs.

Josephbleau said...

"Je vais les faire sortir d'une manière ou d'une autre, par la fenêtre ou par la porte," Better in the original language.

Aunty Trump said...

I worked in telecom in France too, not for France Telecom, but for an international carrier, and those people were very hardworking, and very smart. It’s kind of funny when you are confronted with a prejudice you didn’t know you had by having it disproven. The same thing happened when I was in a meeting with a bunch of people in the UK and there was an Irishman there who was the smartest person in the room. He saw immediately where were were going with this issue and that, and we had been working on it for a decade and were used to giving multiple explanations before it would sink in. I didn’t realize until that day that I thought Irishmen were stupid.

daskol said...

Also better in between puffs on a cigarette

daskol said...

By per capita income, Ireland is the wealthiest "real country" in Europe, and closest to the US.

Aunty Trump said...

The Irish guy was like Reagan in that SNL skit.

JohnAnnArbor said...

The perversity of it being so difficult to cut staff means that there really are many cases of people being assigned demeaning work and otherwise made to suffer so that they'll leave voluntarily.

As usual, Dilbert has the situation covered.

daskol said...

Nearly everyone is in a union in France, and even relatively small companies have a union rep in the office. The transit protests are a result of Macron's attempts to align the public and private sector retirement benefits, and will only impact people born after 1974 in their latest proposal. People have extremely high expectations there regarding pensions, etc. The closest analogue I can think of to what they're going through there now would be--will be?--when Social Security benefits are eventually renegotiated and means-tested.

Lucid-Ideas said...

@Nonapod

French Labor Laws are among some of the most convoluted and laborious (pun intended) in the entire world. I would put them up there with Brazil's and Spain's.

Rather than a long exposition, I will simply state that in France - whatever you budget for an employee - you should multiply 2x as if you were hiring a shadow person (i.e. that person's salary and benefits x 2). That is what you will pay for employment taxes, taxes on salary, unemployment taxes, taxes on benefits, taxes on mandatory continuing education (yes, employers are required to pay for that), etc.

Getting a good job in France or Spain is like winning the lottery. You could kill your boss and still likely collect on all your employment benefits (yes. this has happened). In the USA you could liken it to public educators or municipal bureaucrats in CA for comparison.

Aunty Trump said...

"Also better in between puffs on a cigarette”

In an office building I worked in in France, in the restroom there was a sign: “Smoking in the workplace has been illegal since some year or other. Defense de fumer”

And below it was a sign that said to make sure to put your butts into the ashtray provided that was directly below it.

rcocean said...

One good thing about France is they protect workers rights and they DO NOT believe in the so-called "Free Market". See they see work as something you have to do to rather than the end and be all of life. No one in France worships clowns like Gates or Zuckerberg, let alone "vulture capitalists".

rcocean said...

Germany is one of the richest countries in the world, and gives everyone 6-8 weeks leave and generous pensions and benefits. Aoccording to a friend who visited a German Engineering firm as a consultant, the lunch time last 90 minutes, and included free beer and sausage!

Meanwhile in the USA, we have Republican dumbshits trying to cut Social Security because we're "Going broke" LOL.

Sebastian said...

"they see work as something you have to do"

Wait, I thought the case was about work as something someone else has to give you and pay you for, and keep giving you and paying for even if you don't produce anything of value.

JohnAnnArbor said...

Employment in France and Germany is covered by Get Fuzzy.

Aunty Trump said...

"One good thing about France is they protect workers rights and they DO NOT believe in the so-called "Free Market””

Right, they have former colonies that they can leverage to buy their Alcatel switches that nobody else wants. They have Elf, I think it’s called, to work oil fields in former colonies. As their colonial connections fade, look for the "French exception" to fade as well. In the run up to the Gulf War, they tried to sell their veto on the U.N. Security Council to Iraq for a quarter interest in their oil.

Quebec is basically fascist.

I no longer believe in “free markets” either. I think they are as real as “legal scholars.” They are often said to exist....

Birkel said...

France is stupid.

Michael said...

Since the introduction of the Euro, France has been economically stagnant. The real economic engine of the continent is Germany, with some knock effects in Holland. The rest of Europe lumbers along (Sweeden, Poland, etc) or is in decline (Greece, Italy, Spain)

rcocean said...

The French -like the Italians -believe some laws are optional.

rehajm said...

If anyone in the United States attempted to cut benefits to the level of German workers they’d get called a Nazi.

Michael K said...

I like how the Trump administration is toying with this strategy to smoke out government bloat.

This story is a preview of the second term. Wheeeee!

rcocean said...

Per Capita income per country is often a misleading stat. for example Ireland as a GDP of 55,000, the Netherlands is 46,000 and France is 38,000. I'd much rather live in France then Ireland. And Ireland has a higher standard of living than Germany or Denmark? You wouldn't know it from visiting Dublin, Copenhagen and Frankfurt.

Aunty Trump said...

"You wouldn't know it from visiting Dublin, Copenhagen and Frankfurt.”

Maybe it’s more equally distributed.... Naah!

daskol said...

Agreed, I cite that stat re Ireland because it's misleading, although Dublin has come a long way in a few decades. Last few years I mostly work with Europeans and spend a lot of work time there. I consider the standard of living for the mostly educated, urban and well off people with whom I work, including in Germany, as considerably lower than the US. That's not to say there aren't nicer things there than here, but overall in terms of money, cars, appliances, expectations, etc. They mostly happily trade a bit of wealth for a sense of security and stability to their lifestyles.

daskol said...

Paris is grittier than Dublin or London.

Yancey Ward said...

Wake me up when they arrest and charge Macron.

Yancey Ward said...

How many suicides has Trump caused? I would say not nearly enough.

Am I a bad person for thinking this?

Aunty Trump said...

"They mostly happily trade a bit of wealth for a sense of security and stability to their lifestyles.”

It’s been said that it’s easier for the cultural right to move left on economics than it is for the cultural left to move right on culture, and what mainly destroys the "sense of security” is the destruction of the culture.

Bill Peschel said...

"Germany is one of the richest countries in the world, and gives everyone 6-8 weeks leave and generous pensions and benefits. Aoccording to a friend who visited a German Engineering firm as a consultant, the lunch time last 90 minutes, and included free beer and sausage!"

My wife's cousin is a small business owner in Germany. In his town, he is treated like a god, because he hires local workers. Not many, maybe a dozen, but that's how hard it is to find work.

I don't know if he serves beer at lunch.

daskol said...

I don't know. Not to get Marxist, but a lot of that sense of security is materially economic, and arises from entrusting to the institutions of government and the private/semi-private sector their well-being throughout working and post-work lives. They trust their institutions in ways that continue to amaze me.

Richard Dolan said...

This story resonates a bit with the argument in Dineen's book Why Liberalism Failed. The huge success of market-based economics made possible by the creation of the ever more intrusive regulatory state carries with it the seeds of its own destruction. Part of that destruction is the effect of eating its own. The EU in general, and France in particular, is a bit ahead of us on that one, I suspect.

Ambrose said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Aunty Trump said...

I grew up very poor, but could live in a neighborhood where crime was not a major problem and people knew each other, and I didn’t even know I was poor, or that the powdered eggs I was eating for breakfast came from the government. Now it is very hard to be poor and live a life where crime and gangs are not a consideration. My hometown is very different than it was when I was a kid. Mostly the difference with the well off kids was that they had more stuff, not that their lives were fundamentally different.

daskol said...

The ties that bind here have never been as strong as over there. I don’t know that most we’ll off people even have this decline in their consciousness here. Certainly globalization’s discontented don’t have much of a voice, and there are few people in power who speak for them.

daskol said...

Thank God for mega churches. And crap popular music and other least common denominator low culture, without which we’d hardly be a nation.

Birkel said...

Net disposable income in Ireland is about 3/4ths of the net disposable income of the United States.

rcocean uses statistics in place of lies and damned lies.

readering said...

From reading about the case sounds like the problem was that a state company was privatized but the current employees remained civil servants, leading the top executives to break the law with their employment practices. The suicides illustrated the severity of the conduct.

rcocean said...

"Paris is grittier than Dublin or London."

Yeah, its got some real patchy parts - especially in the outer ring.

Caligula said...

The roots of France Telecom go back to the days of landlines, when most countries (other than the USA) had a PTT: a ministry of post, telegraph, and telephone.

Not surprisingly, these PTTs tended to be spectacularly inefficient, and perhaps not all that interested in promptly satisfying your request for new telephone service. AT&T (in the days when it was a regulated monopoly) used to point out how bad the PTTs were whenever anyone questioned the quality or cost of its telephone service.

Nonetheless, it's been decades since phones in France were supplied by a PTT. Yet somehow this private company is supposed to protect jobs as though it were still a government ministry, even in a world in which it must compete with other telecom providers?

AZ Bob said...

Aunty Trump said... ...In an office building I worked in in France, in the restroom there was a sign: “Smoking in the workplace has been illegal since some year or other. Defense de fumer”

And below it was a sign that said to make sure to put your butts into the ashtray provided that was directly below it.


So true. I was having breakfast at a bed and breakfast outside of Cancale last summer when I heard a traveler from England and the French host have a conversation about Brexit.

The discussion wound up with the Brit noting a fundamental difference between the English and French. He said:

"The English have few laws but follow them religiously while the French have many laws but don't follow them at all."

The Frenchmen agreed and added that this willingness to break rules is cultural and starts early in grade school.

AZ Bob said...

“French melancholia is a puzzling paradox,” says Matthew Fraser, an Anglo-Canadian professor at the American University of Paris. “After three decades in France, I have wondered many times how a nation so spoilt, famous for their joie de vivre, are always so bloody miserable?”

Fraser says understanding this misery means looking into the French soul. “The French are philosophically pessimistic. In Anglo-Protestant culture, we are optimistically turned towards the future, driven by the goals of progress and material gain, emboldened by a conviction that anything is possible,” he says. “French culture, by contrast, is cynical, fatalist and essentially pessimistic. Anglos live in a ‘yes’ culture; the French inhabit a ‘no’ culture.


This comes from a recent article in the LA Times.

Rusty said...

Aunty said, "I no longer believe in “free markets” either. I think they are as real as “legal scholars.”"
Think smaller. farmers markets. absolute auctions, flea markets etc.

rcocean said...

"Yet somehow this private company is supposed to protect jobs as though it were still a government ministry, even in a world in which it must compete with other telecom providers?'

Mr. Libertarian theory shows up. Do you know the details of the french telecom market or the history of the company or how it was downsized?

Let me guess, No.

Michael K said...

“French culture, by contrast, is cynical, fatalist and essentially pessimistic. Anglos live in a ‘yes’ culture; the French inhabit a ‘no’ culture.

They never got over Napoleon, let alone WWI. I like France but they don't deserve it.

narciso said...

it does seem an excessive exercise,


https://web.archive.org/web/20100205091539/http://www.businessweek.com/news/2010-02-01/france-telecom-names-richard-ceo-lombard-to-remain-chairman.html

narciso said...

from paris with love, luc besson's dark nourish tale, painted what the banlieu's looked like in 2010, around the time the koachis were getting out of la sante prison,

daskol said...

That Robert Rodriguez scifi Alina Angel film reminds of Luc Besson 5th Element era. People have picked off of him what they could, and he can't do anything right lately, financially, artistically, or with the ladies. Getting old and chubby sucks, but he'll pull through this era horrificus. He notices stuff, and has learned his trade well.

daskol said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
The Crack Emcee said...

Any story that reveals the French as both fascists and snowflakes is fine by me.

That was my experience living there.

Lurker21 said...

Tragic, but I'm sure the French will find a way to turn it into a frothy sex comedy.