Bridge Liberia Fires 17 Staff for “Schools Closure” -Ministries of Labor, Education Not Aware of Decision
The fate of more than a dozen staff of Bridge International Academies Liberia branch now hangs in the balance as the critically acclaimed educational brand is said to have sacked 17 of its Liberia staff due to what it terms as the March 22, 2020 decision by the Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Education to indefinitely close schools in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. But an investigation conducted by The Analyst is unearthing that the main reason for Bridge Liberia sacking 17 of its employees is because they were among those who refused to sign a letter from former Bridge Country Director Griffin Asigo requesting them to agree to 80-90 percent salary cuts at the advent of the Coronavirus pandemic in Liberia.
According to the August 7, 2020 Bridge Liberia letter of termination that affected staff mainly from the company’s operations department, there is currently no work for their role. “This is following the indefinite closure of schools by the Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Education on the 22nd of March, 2020 in response to the CONVID-19 pandemic. As a result, Bridge Liberia operations have been adversely affected,” the letters, signed by Bridge Liberia HR, Alimata Johnson, stated.
“We have made every effort to find alternative employment for you within the company but unfortunately, there are no suitable positions available at this time. We know that this will be disappointing news and want to emphasize that this decision is not a reflection on your performance, but is based on the operational requirements of the organization going forward,” Ms. Johnson informed the axed employees.
Continuing, the Bridge Liberia HR manager said, while the decision to terminate the employees’ contract has been difficult for the Bridge Liberia management team, Bridge would like to take this opportunity to thank all of the fired employees for their past service and dedication to the organization.
“We are grateful for the role that you have played in improving educational opportunities for Liberia’s children and understand that you will be disappointed, as we are, that your journey with Bridge is not continuing,” she said.
All of the 17 sacked employees were requested to continue working up to September 6, 2020, which would be their official last day of work. They were also informed in their letters that they are entitled to one month’s salary payment for each completed year of service, and one month salary payment in lieu of the one month notice period.
In reaction to their unceremonious firing, some of the affected staff expressed utter surprise and disappointment that their employer is using the COVID-19 pandemic situation to exploit dedicated employees for no justifiable reason.
“First of all, the statement that we are being sacked because the Ministries of Education and Health indefinitely closed schools on March 22, 2020 is far from the truth. Yes, it’s true that schools are shut down at the time, but the same Ministry of Education just came up with new timetable for resumption of schools in Liberia. As a matter of fact, Bridge has informed all of our 170 schools in the 14 counties to be prepared for the reopening of schools this week,” Andrew Kuwon, a sacked staff of the operations department informed this paper.
Our investigations have also unearthed that the decision to sack 17 employees was reached without the knowledge of authorities at the Ministry of Labor. Our Labor Ministry source, when contacted, informed that the Ministry has already reached out to Bridge higherups for them to provide clarity with regards to specific terms within their employees’ contract termination document.
“The letter itself is compound-complex. Is it a termination letter or redundancy? I think Bridge needs to be clear about this,” our Labor Ministry source stated.
Griffin Asigo Still Calling Shots in Liberia
Bridge Liberia whistleblowers have also confided to The Analyst that, while it is true that Griffin Asigo was recently reassigned from Liberia mainly because of the controversies surrounding series of crisis the organization is going through on account of his bad management practices, Mr. Asigo is still calling the shots in Liberia, as he is fingered to be the main brains behind the sacking of the 17 staff.
In an email dated Wednesday, July 29, 2020 and addressed to all Bridge Liberia staff, Bridge International Academies founder, Shannon May, informed her Liberia team of Griffin Asigo’s transfer or “promotion” from Liberia as Managing Director or Country Director, to their New Opportunities team.
In that email which is in the possession of this paper, Shannon May indicated that Mr. Asigo would not only facilitate the hiring of the next Liberia Managing Director, but would also spearhead all of Bridge Liberia operations while the current Operations Director in Liberia, Stefan Oosthuizen, acts as Country Director.
“Until we have appointed a new Managing Director, Griffin will continue to lead our work in Liberia with the support of our current Operations Director in Liberia, Stefan Oosthuizen as the Acting Country Director,” Shannon May informed her employees in Liberia.
Sources within Bridge Liberia have hinted that the decision to fire the 17 staff was clearly orchestrated by Griffin Asigo from his base in Kenya.
“HR Alimata Johnson is only being used to place her hands in the hot oil to give Griffin his kala,” the Bridge source intimated.
All 17 of the terminated employees are said to be seriously prepared to fight against what they term as their “wrongful dismissal”, and would challenge the decision through the legal system.