Striking Amen Workers Blog for Their Jobs

Striking workers at the Amen web hosting operation in France are using a weblog to air their grievances and try to gain a seat at the table as the business is sold to a new owner. Amen is part of cash-strapped VIA Networks, which last week agreed to a sale to UK provider Claranet to head off a liquidity crisis. But employees at Amen, which was bought by VIA last January, say they and their managers have been excluded from discussions about the sale and given no information about their fate, and gone on strike in protest.

The Amen on Strike blog, housed offsite at French host Nerim, details the Amen staffer's grievances over their treatment and ongoing efforts to meet with executives at VIA Networks to discuss their future. The amenengreve.info domain name was obtained through the proxy registration service at Network Solutions, which keeps the owner's name and address private.

VIA Networks has acknowledged the strike, but says that all hosting operations at Amen are being properly maintained by VIA staff. The Amen on Strike blog asserted that "certain services require manual validation and as there is no support in place these orders have gone unattended."

As in any acquisition, the nature of the deal leaves Amen staff with little leverage. Claranet can offer no assurances, as it does not yet employ the workers. As the seller (and a cash-strapped one at that), VIA Networks has limited ability to dictate terms to Claranet on employee retention - even if it were negotiating with the striking Amen workers. Uncontent to wait for news, the Amen workers decided instead on a job action, with the blog serving as a digital megaphone to air their grievances to the public and the press.

The Amen and PSI Net Europe assets were placed for sale last month when VIA said it faced "an urgent liquidity crisis." The distressed sale continues the consolidation in the European hosting market following a flurry of 2004 deals in which Freenet bought Tect's hosting operation, Host Europe PLC was bought by Pipex, NetBenefit purchased Easily Ltd., and Lycos Europe bought United-Domains of Munich.