France: bosses bully workers to death

Submitted by Matthew on 22 October, 2009 - 12:41

It sounds so fantastically morbid you would be forgiven for thinking we have made it up. But the statistics show that job insecurity and bullying at work are leading increasing numbers of French workers to take their own lives.

Twenty-four workers at France Telecom have killed themselves since the beginning of 2008. That’s a lot, but, as a recent article in the Economist shows it is in fact in line with the national average (14.6 suicides per 100,000 people).

The Economist — which usually gives the bosses the benefit of the doubt —poses an important question: how is it that France, with its generally higher level of workers’ rights, can have such high rates of depression, stress and indeed suicide at work?

Perversely, the legal rights won by French workers mean that bosses — prevented from easily sacking them — have to find ways of making their working lives difficult; casual bullying, or forcing them to do meaningless tasks.

The lesson is not that legal rights are not worth fighting for — far from it. But that only ongoing workers’ organisation in every workplace can help enforce legal rights and that ultimately, it is only by disrupting, subverting and eventually overthrowing the “right” of bosses to manage, rule, bully and run workplaces that the mental — as well as the economic and social — wellbeing of working-class people can be guaranteed.

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