Documentary - Production 2017

TELEPHONE SUICIDES shows how Telecom and Telefonica in Argentina used psychological terrorpolicies with the aim of reducing the number of workers.Compulsive transfers hundreds of kilometers away from family, unexpected changes in tasks or confinements in an empty office where they were to remain 8hours doing nothing, are some of the methods designed by HR people to induce employees to resign.This technique was known as Mobbing (office bullying). This is how the conversion of public business to private hands began in the 90s. Ten years later, already in the XXI century, the same operation was repeated in France; this time the consequences took on tragic tones, since, in less than a year, 25 people working for FRANCE TELECOM commited suicide.

    • Year of production
    • 2017
    • Genres
    • Documentary
    • Countries
    • Languages
    • Budget
    • 0.3 - 0.6 M$
    • Duration
    • 90 mn
    • Director(s)
    • Sandra GUGLIOTTA
    • Synopsis
    • France, 2000: twenty-five employees of Orange/France Telecom kill themselves while twenty-two thousand are dismissed in a kind of “global restructuring”, as Delphine Ernotte, the director of the company, describes it to try to justify it. Ten years earlier, with the rise of privatization, Argentina appears on the map as a Lab Country: fertile ground to experiment with coercion methods that corporations will later take to their countries of origin.

      The passage from “state inefficiency” to “private efficiency” was extremely painful and claimed many lives. Employees of the former Entel (the previous name of the public telephony company in Argentina) were accused of being lazy, useless, and unable to adapt to the new business model. A plant of forty thousand employees had to be reduced and transform it into a dynamic and productive enterprise.

      The tactics that were used for this conversion were very cruel and were applied across both continents: transfer the employees to remote parts of the country, make the staff who did not adapt to changes feel useless, and absolute suppression of tasks.

      The most vulnerable are the first to fall.

      The “rebel” group, those who resisted this abrupt change and did not resign, were transferred to 1200 Forest Street, an empty office that Telecom uses for these cases. There, eight hours a day, employees were forced to look at one another without having to perform any tasks. No one stands the pressure for more than two or three months. Except for a woman who spends a whole year in that office and, after a depressive crisis, tries to kill herself with a gunshot to the head.

      Another maneuver is to subject employees to meetings with professionals in psychological torture: Human Resources people seeking to break the employees at all costs. In these meetings, the victims are informed that technological changes are advancing by leaps and bounds, and that the employees are not prepared to adapt to progress, that they are old, and that the best thing they can do is resign.

      But some do not accept retirement and withstand all pressures. Néstor Quinteros still works in the company after suffering a stroke and cardiac disorders. He initiated a lawsuit that gave rise to a complex judicial process.

      This whole process would not have been possible without the collaboration of the trade union movement, whose leaders not only supported the plans of the company but took commissions for each worker that “withdrew voluntarily”. The first to be invited to retire were workers who were active in the unions, union delegates who could put up some resistance.

      Both in France and in Argentina, some of the employees who undergo this experience end up with severe psychological problems, others suffer heart attacks; or, overwhelmed by the pressure and anxiety, attempt suicide. A whole system of psychological harassment was perfectly designed, employing very similar methods to those used in torture. Not by chance the first case of Mobbing is recorded in Argentina during the dictatorship of the 1970s.

      Although in certain areas modernity has eliminated the use of physical violence, multinational companies have legitimized psychological harassment, which ultimately is even more brutal. Communication companies, in their desire to achieve in some cases exorbitant profit margins , implemented a restructuring policy both in Argentina and France, causing a tragedy that, although silent, has left consequences that are difficult to overcome.