The worker’s union has praised a decision to give an employee back his job, saying staff need to be free to make jokes about management.
The worker’s union has praised a decision to give an employee back his job, saying staff need to be free to make jokes about management.

‘Taking the piss:’ Worker sacked for Hitler meme wins appeal

A worker who was sacked from BP for sharing a meme comparing his managers to Hitler has won his job back, after launching a defence saying he was "taking the mickey".

The National Secretary of the Australian Workers' Union, Daniel Walton, has praised today's decision by the Fair Work Commission, saying employees need to be able to "take the piss out of management".

Scott Tracey was fired from his job at BP after he shared a video parodying his managers in a an online group with his colleagues. Mr Tracey used the meme, with a likeness of Hitler from a film, to mock the upper management from the oil company.

The meme uses a tense scene from the 2004 German film Downfall, where the panicked and incensed character of Hitler, retreating to his bunker, realises he is going to lose the war. The character then lashes out at his subordinates. In the meme, different subtitles are superimposed onto the video.

Mr Tracey shared a video he'd made with his wife in an online chat group and it was seen by eight people, news.com.au reported last year.

The company's managing director, Brett Swayn, and other members of management were parodied in the video and reportedly found it objectionable, and Mr Tracey was sacked over the incident.

In September of last year, the Deputy President of the Fair Work Commission upheld BP's argument that the meme was "objectively offensive" as it likened upper management to Nazis, Hitler and murderers, and said the meme being a "parody" did not make it a "get out of jail free card".

But Mr Tracey, who had been employed by BP for seven years before he was sacked, appealed the Fair Work Commission's September decision, and was today found to have been unfairly treated by BP when he was dismissed.

An example of the Downfall meme.
An example of the Downfall meme.

 

The meme uses a clip from a 2004 film.
The meme uses a clip from a 2004 film.

Upon appeal, the Fair Work Commission found Mr Tracey had not done anything to warrant being sacked.

The judgement noted he'd shared the video in a private online group outside of work hours, and had been dismissed "in the context of a tense and embittered industrial environment" after seven years of "unblemished" work for the company.

The Fair Work Commission has recommended Mr Tracey be reinstated at his former position within two weeks.

"This is a meme that has been used in the context of sporting clubs, TV reality shows, international relations and everything in between," said Daniel Walton, the AWU National Secretary.

"For BP to allege this had anything to do with actually comparing management to Nazis was obtuse at best, but more likely disingenuous.

"Workers should be able to take the piss out of management with their colleagues in their own time. The day that right is lost would be a very bleak day for Australia."

"This decision is a victory for workers rights in the digital era, a victory for common sense, and a victory for Aussie larrikinism," Brad Gandy, AWU WA Branch Secretary said in a statement.

"How BP decided an employee could be terminated for a private joke among mates is beyond me, but I'm very grateful the Fair Work Commission has set things right today."