Education provider Bridge International Academies Liberia is once more in the news for the wrong reasons.
Days after the company sued several Liberian journalists for libel, reportedly against its Director of Schools, a nurse by profession, Mrs. Corina Totimeh Wornee, the company has relieved at least seventeen employees of their jobs.
The action according to them is under a scheme called ‘Termination of employment by reason of redundancy.’
There are reports the company took the action in strict non adherence to the Ministry of Labor, a disregard to COVID 19 guides for workers in Liberia laid out by the Ministry.
A Labor Ministry official who spoke on condition of anonymity said ‘No company has such right to go ahead and redundant employees without first sitting with us and telling us why, how etc and its sad Bridge disregarded our authority.’
In the communication sent to employees, a copy in our possession, the company says ‘It is with deep regret that we inform you that there is no work for your role and Bridge Liberia will therefore be terminating your contract of employment. This is following the indefinite closure of schools by the Ministry of Health and Education on the 22nd of March 2020 in response to COVID19 pandemic.’
The company however in a communication to employees on a ‘Work from home notice and severe salary cut’ wrote encouraging employees that they will return to work immediately following the resumption of schools and conclusion of the COVID19 pandemic.
Contrary to what’s contained in the letter of termination that schools are closed indefinitely, the Ministry of Education has with immediate effect resumed classes up to sixth grade and those below will from time to time come to pick notes from campus.
‘It leaves us employees confused as to why will the government resume classes then Bridge that runs schools be terminating us for closure of schools, this appears to be a pure witch hunt for us who refused to sign a purported sharp pay cut during the pandemic and proceeded for Labor Ministry for intervention’ one of the dismissed employees narrated.
The company has had strains with the Ministry of Education that earlier rejected Country Director Griffin Asigo working in Liberia on bad labor, disrespect for Liberian authorities and other vices and since had his company replaced him with a South African national Stefan Oosthuizen.
Before his dismissal from the Liberian program, the redundancy or dismissal scheme was engineered so that he clamps down on his critics and employees who refuse to adhere to a huge salary cut during the pandemic.
Sitting now in Kenya, Mr. Griffin Asigo, the former Country Director with the aid of the company’s owner Shannon May is now making decisions that are affecting the lives of several Liberians.
The Ministry of Education is yet to respond to the shocking news but reports have it that the Ministry will speak to several of the dismissed employees on Monday before acting whether or not the decision by Bridge International will stand.
Several companies like Mittal Steel and Firestone that redundant employees had to reinstate them on request by the government and Bridge is gradually on the same slope.