A BP worker who privately shared a version of the Hitler Downfall parody video during pay negotiations was not only sacked but also lost an appeal against his dismissal.
The meme video has been widely played across the internet since 2006, with users adding their own subtitles to a clip from the 2004 German film Der Untergang (Downfall), about Adolf Hitler’s final hours.
The sacked technician used the meme format to parody 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 that when viewed in context that a reasonable person would consider the Hitler video inappropriate and offensive.”
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.”
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.
“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,” Mr Walton said.
“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.”