Downfall: BP worker fired after sharing Hitler meme mocking firm’s wage negotiations wins payout

Scott Tracey from Perth was put through two years of stress and uncertainty ‘all because a few stuffed shirts didn’t get a joke’, says union boss

Harry Cockburn
Tuesday 11 August 2020 09:37
Bruno Ganz played Hitler in the 2004 film Downfall
Bruno Ganz played Hitler in the 2004 film Downfall

A BP worker in Australia who was fired after sharing a version of a popular Hitler meme parodying the company as it sought to negotiate a new wage deal for staff has won a $200,000AUS (£110,000) payout following an unfair dismissal case.

Scott Tracey shared the meme, edited by his wife – from the 2004 film Downfall – in which Hitler rants at generals as it becomes apparent the Nazis are losing the war, but with the English subtitles changed to portray BP’s pay negotiations.

Mr Tracey posted the video on a closed Facebook group among colleagues, prompting BP to sack him.

During a two-year legal battle, BP argued the meme was “highly offensive and inappropriate”, and Mr Tracey lost an initial unfair dismissal case in September 2019 when a Fair Work commissioner decided Mr Tracey had compared his bosses to Nazis, according to the Sydney Morning Herald.

Mr Tracey appealed the decision, saying posting the video of the popular meme format which his wife had edited was clearly meant as a joke, that it didn’t identify BP directly or any specific person.

But the federal court ruled it was unreasonable for BP to claim the meme had likened executives to Nazis, and Mr Tracey returned to work at BP Kwinana oil refinery in south-west Perth in March.

On Monday the court ordered BP to pay Mr Tracey compensation including $177,324.93 in lost salary and bonuses, less tax, and $24,069.99 in superannuation (pensions payments).

BP had argued it should only have to pay Mr Tracey around $150,000, less than the salary he would otherwise have earned, because of his misconduct in sharing the video at work even if it was not enough to justify his dismissal.

The company also said a further sum should be deducted because he could have found other work while his case was pending.

But the Fair Work Commission said there was no evidence Mr Tracey had not sought work, as he claimed he had, and said the alleged misconduct in sharing the video was only serious enough to justify taking any money he would have earned from a potential promotion.

Australian Workers Union secretary Brad Gandy, who represented Mr Tracey, said the payout from BP “doesn’t make up for the completely unnecessary drama and heartache Mr Tracey has been dragged through”.

“We hope this marks the end of a truly unedifying chapter for BP management,” Mr Gandy told the Sydney Morning Herald.

“To dig in and drag an honest worker through nearly two years of stress and uncertainty, all because a few stuffed shirts didn’t get a joke, is poor corporate behaviour.”

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