Was the suicide of M., a striking employee of RTE, “instrumentalized” by part of the left?

This is the sad, distorted and escalated story of a 29-year-old young man, M., an RTE agent in Saumur (Maine-et-Loire), who ended his life on Monday, October 17. We could read his name this week on social networks or in the media, alternately presented as a victim of union or police repression, a textbook case of a runaway on the networks or the object of macabre political recovery.

As soon as it became known, in an eruptive social climate, the death of M. was the subject of great excitement online, in local and then national activist circles. M. had participated, like many colleagues in the West, in a long strike. He had been summoned on September 7 to the Angers police station, in a case of wild power cut, at the beginning of June, which had affected the Angevin agglomeration. Tributes, more or less informed, more or less distorted, have multiplied. Cyril Girardeau, a former Nupes candidate (one of the few to have kept, and corrected, his tweet) writes: “Repression murdered […] a 28 year old. M. was one of the RTE electricians prosecuted by the anti-terrorist for having gone on strike. He took his own life as a result of this despicable pursuit by the state.”

The historian Ludivine Bantigny affirms, in a tweet, that the young man had been placed in police custody by the General Directorate of Internal Security (DGSI), that he had been handcuffed in front of his family. Thomas Portes, Nupes deputy for Seine-Saint-Denis, also denounces the effects of “repression” and recounts threats of dismissal weighing on the employee: “In September, RTE employees were heard by the police for having taken over the work tool during a strike. They were threatened with dismissal. The words “repression kills” often accompanied tweets mentioning it.

“Obligated to communicate in order to clarify matters properly”

These first denunciations in the form of tribute were often based on erroneous information. M. was never taken into custody, nor arrested or handcuffed in front of his family. If four employees of RTE were indeed placed under judicial supervision after a police custody at the DGSI, they were agents from the North. M. had nothing to do with it.

According to our information, CGT executives have requested the removal of several misleading messages posted by its members or known accounts. Tuesday evening, the section of the Maine et Loirewhere M. was active, decides to publish a press release. “All that could be said by politicians is a bit of recovery and some are mixing up certain cases. It’s disastrous. We had to communicate in order to clarify matters properly,” today justifies Pascal Tournecuillert, of the CGT energy of 49, very affected by the death of the young man he knew. In its text, the departmental union evokes the social conflict which opposed the employee of the network maintenance group (GMR) of Anjou, as well as other colleagues in the management of RTE. “Like many colleagues from the GMR de l’Ouest, he had taken part in the three-month strike to win a 5% salary increase and a revaluation of qualification recognition”, can we read. The press release retraces the events of the last few months: M. had attended the evacuation of a strike picket by the CRS before being summoned on September 7 for a free hearing at the Angers police station, in a case of power cut. wild on June 2 (for which he denied any involvement). “Like the other colleagues summoned, M. had experienced this period of contempt, humiliation and then repression of all kinds very badly”, concludes the CGT energy 49 before repeating its support for those close to it.

Under no sanction

If it brings some clarifications, and cuts short certain rumours, in particular on the absence of a link between the hearing of M. and the police custody of his colleagues in the North, the press release, far from putting an end to the excitement , was taken up by several Nupes deputies. “The strike is a constitutional right. No one should be worried about that. The death of M. is a tragedy. Condolences to his family, colleagues and loved ones,” writes Mathilde Panot, president of the group of La France insoumise at the National Assembly. “Upset by the suicide of M., RTE agent. He was 29 years old, his life ahead of him. Prosecuted for striking and fighting for wage increases! With all my heart with his family, his CGT comrades and his colleagues”, is also moved Fabien Roussel, national secretary of the Communist Party.

In an interview given to WebTV le Média, published on October 19, Cédric Liechti, of the CGT Énergie Paris, concedes that he does not know the young man, speaks of respecting the time of mourning, of waiting for the results of the investigations, but he accuses RTE of having a share of responsibility in the drama. And he relays, by giving him an echo, the rumor which according to him rustles on strike pickets: “They killed one of ours.” He rocks : “The time of mourning has passed, there is a collective reaction from the CGT and its colleagues, on a national scale.” On the other side of the microphone, the journalist Théophile Kouamouo, wrongly claims that M. had been summoned to an interview prior to sanction. The striking employee was not subject to any sanction, as confirmed by RTE and the young man’s lawyer, Hugo Salquain, at CheckNews.

On Wednesday, the National Federation of Mines and Energy (FNME) in turn published a press release indicating that the tragedy “took place in a particular context, that of the criminalization of the strike”. “This tragic event comes after a very trying conflict where, for more than three months, the agents of GMR Anjou fought to obtain a 5% salary increase. [soit environ 70 euros par mois, selon la CGT, ndlr]. They received nothing but contempt from management in response. It even sent the CRS to dislodge the strikers,” can we read. The CGT also explains that it has “alert to the deleterious consequences of this repressive management, but nothing can move the management”.

The same day, at the end of the day, Xavier Piechaczyk, the boss of RTE, was questioned on the death of the young employee on the set of It’s up to you. He says to himself “upset by this event”. While denouncing “an instrumentalization”, he denies any known link between the professional activity of the young man and his act. Several press articles evoke a runaway. On social networks, messages are less frequent.

“The suspension of the electricity supply was not planned at the start”

“It started with false information that he was one of the four summoned to the DGSI. And I have the impression that since it’s not one of those, it no longer interests anyone, “ deplores Francis Casanova, CGT union representative at RTE. According to Pascal Tournecuillert, the young employee was “very affected” by the way the social conflict was managed: “He received the summons by mail. A few days later, he was on sick leave. We talked about it with him, he was sensitive, rigorous in his work and attentive. He came back last week, I was supposed to see him on Monday; he never came.”

His hearing took place on September 7, as part of an investigation opened by the Angers prosecutor’s office for “obstructing the freedom to work and endangering the lives of others” concerning the savage power cut of June 2. “On the Angers site, on an electrical substation, we had just planned an occupation of the site to show that we were not happy. There are also other electricity and gas industries. When we took stock of the management’s responses, the anger mounted, there was a suspension of the electricity supply, which was not planned at the start. M. was auditioned for that, while he stayed outside in the parking lot”, relates Pascal Tournecuillert.

The prosecutor in charge of the case, Eric Bouillard, tells CheckNews having received “more than a hundred complaints” related to this action. The Chamber of Commerce and Industry had encouraged companies to file after the cut. In addition, RTE had also filed a complaint against X for malice. For the time being, the auditions are still in progress, indicates Eric Bouillard.

According to the latter, the young man had expressed “personal problems” during his interview. An element that his lawyer does not confirm: “I don’t remember any worries, other than what he was going through because of the social conflict and which affected him a lot. It was palpable that he was not well, he was very depressed by it all. It didn’t help.” “Work was part [de son mal-être]. Afterwards, he surely had personal problems, he remained discreet about it, ” said Pascal Tournecuillert.

Following the death of M., an investigation was opened and is still ongoing. “The Saumur prosecution is seized only of the suicide of [M.]», explains Saumur prosecutor Alexandra Verron. She indicates that“no link has been established” between his death and his professional situation or his hearing. And states that Mr. “leaved no writing explaining his gesture”.

Was the suicide of M., a striking employee of RTE, “instrumentalized” by part of the left?