The George Manneh Weah government came to power in 2018 purposely to provide equal opportunities for all Liberians. But it seems like non-progressive and destructive elements are hellbent on obstructing this objective, evidenced by Bridge Academies International Liberia branch top management’s wrongful and illegal firing of 17 staff. To right this wrong, Grand Bassa County Electoral District # 5 Representative Thomas A. Goshua II, has written to House Speaker Bhofal Chambers, calling for an investigation into the matter.
In his August 7, 2020 letter to Speaker Chambers, Representative Goshua brought to the attention of the Plenary the wrongful and illegal dismissal of about 17 staff of Bridge Academy by the organization’s Management.
“This unlawful action was prompted by the refusal of the seventeen employees to take a salary reduction that was introduced by the Management. Hon. Speaker, we do not take the issue of wrongful and illegal dismissal lightly as it completely contravenes the labor law of this country. It further contravenes the objective to have an increase in employment opportunities for our people,” Representative Goshua stated.
“In observance of the foregoing, I respectfully request plenary to invite the presence of the top management team of Bridge Academies to explain the reasons behind their action,” the Grand Bassa County lawmaker averred.
Whistleblowers at Bridge Liberia have informed 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.
Bridge Liberia on August 7, 2020 wrote the 17 affected staff, mainly from the operations department, informing them that the company no longer has any work for them.
“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,” Bridge Liberia HR Alimata Johnson informed the staff.
Said Alimata Johnson: “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 further disclosed that 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 the dismissed 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.
Pundits are wondering as to the main reason for Bridge firing its staff, because the reason that Bridge gave regarding the Ministries of Education and Health indefinitely closure of March 22, 2020 is frivolous and false. At a matter of fact, the Ministry of Education has already released a timeline for schools to resume in Liberia.
“Bridge in fact wrote us a commitment in June 2020 indicating that everyone would have gone back to work. So the reason they stated for firing the 17 staff is absolutely false,” one of the whistleblowers stated.
“Interestingly, 95% of the affected staff are from the Operations Department, which smacks of a witch hunt. Moreover, no Schools Team member was affected. Schools Team is a department headed by Asigo Griffin, Country Director; and Corina Totimeh, Schools Director,” the whistleblower continued.
This outfit has learned that before his transfer from Liberia as Country Director, Griffin Asigo had demanded all Bridge staff to sign a Solidarity Letter in July 2020, pledging their loyalty to the Bridge team and saying that Bridge is running the best program in Liberia.
Those who were dismissed are said to have not signed the Solidarity Letters nor did they agree to sign the March 2020 pay cut letter.
Meanwhile, Griffin Asigo, who was recently relieved of his Country Director position by Bridge Founder Shannon May, is still running the program, evidenced by the fact he was copied in all mails sent to the dismissed staff.
In fact, Bridge Founder Shannon May on July 29, 2020 wrote to all staff informing them that Griffin Asigo had been promoted to their New Opportunities team.
Shannon May said Mr. Asigo will facilitate the hiring of the next Liberia Managing Director, and will 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.