Renault Faces Probe Over Suicides

Investigation opened at state-of-the-art plant.

French authorities are investigating working conditions at automaker Renault following the suicide of three employees in four months at one of its state-of-the-art plants in the Paris region. Raymond D., 38, hung himself in his home in the town of Saint-Cyr-l'Ecole west of Paris on Feb. 16 after leaving a note in which he complained of problems at work.

Investigators in Versailles have opened a criminal investigation into work conditions at the ultra-modern Technocenter in Guyancourt, outside Paris where the three employees worked, a judicial source said Feb. 20.

They intend to look into possible offenses such as harassment that may be linked to the death, said the prosecutor's office in Versailles. It was the third suicide in four months at the Renault plant and all three employees worked in the main building of the complex known as "The Beehive" where new car designs are developed.

Renault management said the latest death "has left us with many questions and each one of us must reflect on our share of responsibility."

Three weeks earlier, plant employees had held a silent march in memory of two colleagues who had committed suicide in October and January in Guyancourt. One of the employees threw himself from the fifth floor of a building at the plant and another drowned in a nearby pond after leaving on his computer screen an account of a bitter exchange with management, said union official Jean Hotebourg.

Hotebourg accused management of "harassing" the employees, saying they had been humiliated when their boss criticized them in front of colleagues. Renault said in a statement that "there was no correlation for the time being between work conditions" and the three suicides. "We have impassioned engineers who conceive vehicles and it is very difficult to draw a link between the workload and the Renault contracts for 2009," said a management statement.

Copyright Agence France-Presse, 2007

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