BP’s “ludicrous” decision to sack a technician for privately sharing a Downfall parody video has been attacked by the The Australian Workers Union, who are likely to appeal a Fair Work ruling upholding the dismissal.
A BP worker who privately shared a version of the Hitler Downfall parody video during pay negotiations was sacked and lost an appeal against his dismissal.
The meme video has been highly popular across the internet since 2005, with users adding their own subtitles to a clip from the 2004 German film Der Untergang (Downfall), centred around Adolf Hitler’s final hours.
The sacked technician used the meme format to satirise the enterprise bargaining negotiations process at BP. He distributed the video to a private Facebook group of friends and colleagues.
“Hitler Downfall videos are a joke, but the decision to sack a worker over one is not,” Australian Workers Union national secretary Daniel Walton said on Thursday.
BP’s investigation found the worker had been “involved in creating an offensive and inappropriate video depicting BP representatives involved in the current negotiations as Nazis.”
Fair Work Commission deputy president Melanie Binet rejected the worker’s appeal, saying she was satisfied the video was “objectively inappropriate”, offensive and “did cause offence to a number of BP employees”.
“The Hitler video had the potential to undermine, demean and denigrate the BP senior management team amongst an audience which they were charged to lead,’’ she said.
Ms Binet said she did not accept that labelling something as a parody was a “get-out-of-jail card”.
“I am satisfied that when viewed in context that a reasonable person would consider the Hitler video inappropriate and offensive,’’ she said.
AWU national secretary Daniel Walton said on Thursday the commission’s decision to uphold the sacking of a workers was “obviously based on misunderstanding”.
Mr Walton said the sacking was “ludicrous”.
“If you said ‘bugger’ in front of your boss on a worksite they would likely not bat an eyelid,” he said.
“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.”
“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,’’ he said.
“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.”
In 2009, the London Telegraph newspaper published a list titled “Hitler Downfall parodies: 25 worth watching“.
In 2010, Der Untergang director Oliver Hirschbiegel said he had watched 145 of the parody videos and he found them hilarious.