Internationally acclaimed educational brand, Bridge International Academies, has reportedly axed its Country Director, Griffin Asigo, from Liberia, assigning him to a nominal West Africa regional post.
The reassignment of Mr. Asigo from Liberia comes amidst controversies surrounding his alleged institution of wrongful dismissal of essential staff and illegal salary cuts that saw Bridge employees taking home only 10-20 percent of their monthly earnings during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Bridge Global managers are said to have made the decision to get Griffin Asigo out of Liberia due to his failure to properly manage discontentment among his Liberia employees, many of whom had revolted against the unjust salary cuts and sought the assistance of the Liberian Labor Ministry for swift intervention.
Bridge insiders also informed The Analyst that based on several meetings between Labor Ministry officials and several aggrieved workers, the Labor Ministry enforced a mandatory monthly salary payment of not less than 50 percent for all employees during the Coronavirus pandemic.
The decision of Bridge and Griffin Asigo to unilaterally cut staff salaries by 80-90 percent had contravened the Ministry of Liberia framework of the “COVID-19 Prepared for Workplaces and Workers in Liberia”, which states, in Chapter 6, Section 6.3 that, “there should be no employees’ layoff except in the case of redundancy where the law remains fully applicable. Employers wishing to reduce staff not classified under redundancy must pay the staff full salary in accordance with the usual pay periods provided for in their contract of employment.”
Despite these regulations, Mr. Asigo on March 26, 2020 dispatched letters to individual employees in which he told certain group of staff which he termed as “non-essential” to go on one-month compulsory leave, with the proviso that said category of employees would only receive ten percent of their monthly pay, beginning April 2020.
“On the other hand, Mr. Asigo also informed another group of employees that he termed “essential” to remain on job but to work only for four days a month and to receive only 20 percent of their monthly pay. Mr. Asigo’s mandate took effect as of April 2020 and would continue as long as the government’s policy on the shutdown of schools remains in force,” one of the affected Bridge staff averred.
According to a Bridge whistleblower, Mr. Asigo took the decisions without passing through the Human Relations section of his organization. “He only emailed us individual letters demanding at the end that we sign said letter and forward the same to HR,” the Bridge source said.
It can be recalled, immediately prior to the advent of the deadly COVID-19 in Liberia, the National Legislature had summoned Mr. Asigo. After several failed attempts to appear, Griffin finally showed up sometime early March, at which time he was tasked to write a letter of apology to the House Committee on Education or held for contempt. He was also mandated to report to the House Committee on Education and submit specified documents relating to Bridge’s interventions in Liberia.
“Griffin refused the request from the House, and absconded the country as soon as the Coronavirus struck,” our source maintained, adding, “he was safely in Kenya when he wrote us that wicked mandate to cut our salaries by 80 percent. How are we going to sustain our families? Why has the government abandoned our plight?” one of the affected employees lamented to this paper.
“While other organizations that have similar mandates as Bridge are paying their workers on time and even providing them extra incentives to ease the economic strains of COVID-19, Bridge is saying we don’t matter to them,” one of the aggrieved staff lamented.
Apart from the unresolved salary cut issue, Mr. Asigo is said to have instituted “wrongful dismissal” of staff who opposed the pay cuts or were perceived as threats to his dictator-style leadership.
“The workplace had become so toxic under Griffin. Employees were divided against one another in factions – anti-Griffin and Pro-Griffin,” an aggrieved worker told this paper.
According to Bridge insiders who spoke to this paper, Mr. Asigo’s reassignment from Liberia as Country Director, where he controlled his own budget – to that of a regional desk post, seems mostly like a serious demotion.
The Operations Director, Stefan Ooisthuezen, is reported to be acting in Mr. Asigo’s position until a competent Liberian can be recruited as the next Bridge Liberia Country Director.