Orange and Didier Lombard, the CEO of what was then France Telecom, are among the defendants in a forthcoming trial related to a spate of suicides among its workforce nine years ago.

In a statement, trades union CFE-CGC said it had been informed seven defendants would stand trial alongside the telecoms operator on charges of “harassment and/or complicity in mobbing”.

“The moral responsibility of the seven defendants in the social crisis and its most tragic consequences, the suicides of our colleagues, is proven. It is now up to the courts to decide on their criminal responsibility.”

After a lengthy investigation, French magistrates announced the case was being passed onto trial at one of the country’s criminal courts.

The case relates to a number of suicides among staff members at France Telecom during a restructuring programme between 2008 and 2009. Financial Times estimated the number of employees taking their own lives at 35 over the two years.

Following accusations from unions and media pressure at the time, a number of senior executives at the company stood down including Lombard and deputy CEO Louis-Pierre Wenes, who will also stand trial.

Following his appointment to the top job at the operator in 2010, new CEO Stephane Richard vowed to restore morale at the company.

Orange denies all accusations in this case. A representative of the operator said: “As it has always said, Orange disputes these accusations and will explain its position at the public hearing that will be scheduled in the coming months.”

“In the meantime, it is important to not prejudge the persons concerned and to ensure strict respect for the presumption of innocence. Orange is a company that is focused on its future development and where independent surveys have shown that it’s employees are proud to work.”