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A month is a long time in politics

How politics can be fickle. A few months ago, in the midst of the spate of suicides at France Telecom, the government came up with a applaudable scheme where all major companies were obliged to negociate agreements with the workers representatives to guard against stress in the workplace. These agreements were to cover areas such as internal communication and the counselling of affected workers, for example , and basically could include just about anything, each company being relatively different.

This was the brainchild of a minister called Xavier Darcos who, as a result of the poor showing of the majority at the recent regional elections, became the sacrificial lamb, and got moved on (possibly to a job as the boss at the Chateau de Versailles, which seems to me to be a altogether more attractive proposition than Works Minister).

Poor old Xavier had created a fuss back in February by publishing ‘name and shame’ league tables of companies who had concluded negociations, those who were in the process… and the naughty boys who hadn’t yet done anything. Obviously those at the bottom of the class, many with a privileged route into the President’s ears, weren’t too happy, and one could suppose that this had at least a minor influence on the organisational change that ensued.

Bring in Eric Woerth, the previous Minister for the Budget, famous for proposing effiencies without once mentioning Lean.

That’s right you’ve guessed it. Since he arrived, the league tables in question have not been updated (despite a commitment to a weekly update). And ‘friends’ of the new minister told reporters that he doesn’t wish to carry on with the campaign (a way of testing opinion?) without anything yet being official.

I wonder how the minister is going to react to the news at the end of the week that an official judicial enquiry is to be opened into the eventuality of ‘moral harassment’ on the part of the France Telecom directors which may have led to some of the 35 suicides in the last two years. Initiated by the trade unions, there are claims of a deliberate campaign to destabilise workers so that they would leave the company. And that the suicides are the tip of the iceberg hiding ‘thousands’ of cases of depression in the workforce.

It seems pretty clear that the tension is going to last for some time in the future. Unless the new Works Minister has something up his sleeve.

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