Practices at Renault Technocentre in Paris under official judicial investigation after three staff suicides

Working conditions at car-maker Renault are under scrutiny after a series of suicides among engineers at the company’s state-of-the-art Technocentre in the Paris suburbs.

An official judicial investigation will seek to establish whether harassment at work played any role in the deaths.

The latest suicide occurred on 16 February. The 38-year-old employee, who was found hanged at his home, left a letter which referred to difficulties at work.

His death came three weeks after a silent march by staff in memory of two colleagues who committed suicide while working at the site – one in October 2006, the other in January this year. One of the men had thrown himself from the fifth floor of the building, while the other was found drowned in a nearby lake.

A representative of one staff union said the suicides should be considered as “accidents in the workplace”, claiming that the three men had been subject to criticism of their work in front of colleagues. One of the men left his computer screen on showing notes of an interview with his superiors, the union rep revealed.

The union is convinced the deaths were due to harassment by senior managers, and highlighted a new tactic where managers make remarks about staff in front of colleagues. The company categorically denied that the “method” was official policy.

A Renault spokeswoman said official findings from an investigation into the first suicide had not established a link with working conditions. The findings of its investigation into the second suicide have yet to be published, and the company said it will not be commenting before that.

“These suicides have a been a terrible shock to everyone at Renault, but this does not mean one should call into question the whole of the company’s highly-developed HR policy,” the spokeswoman said. 

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