The Fair Work Commission's decision to uphold the sacking of a BP technician based on his use of a common meme in a private Facebook group appears obviously mistaken and an appeal is likely, the Australian Workers' Union has confirmed today.
The sacked technician used the common 'Hitler Downfall' meme format to parody the enterprise bargaining negotiations process at BP. He distributed the video to a private Facebook group of friends and colleagues.
In rejecting the technician's unfair dismissal claim, commission deputy president Melanie Binet said she was "satisfied that when viewed in context that a reasonable person would consider the Hitler video inappropriate and offensive."
BP's investigation had found the worker had been "involved in creating... an offensive and inappropriate video depicting BP representatives involved in the current.... negotiations as Nazis."
AWU National Secretary Daniel Walton said the decision was obviously based on misunderstanding.
"'Hitler Downfall' videos are a joke, but the decision to sack a worker over one is not," Mr Walton said.
"This is a long-serving, loyal employee who has lost his job because the Fair Work Commission is seemingly unfamiliar with a meme that's over a decade old.
"As anyone with a smartphone and a sense of humour can tell you, Hitler Downfall parody videos are not about comparing anyone to actual Nazis. It's about depicting a high-stress group conflict situation and overlaying details about a current event. Like most people I've seen versions of these meme about sport, politics, reality TV — it's very well established.
"I understand that if you were completely unfamiliar with the meme you might think a comparison was being made to Nazis. But that's just not what this video means in 2019. So this is a worker who has been sacked because of a cultural misunderstanding. It's ludicrous.
"If you said 'bugger' in front of your boss on a worksite they would likely not bat an eyelid. But if they'd never heard the term before and they looked up the literal meaning they might be appalled. Yet you shouldn't be sacked over such a misunderstanding."