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Worker Sacked Over Hitler 'Downfall' Meme In Facebook Group

In what unions believe could be the first case of its kind in Australia, a version of the Hitler 'Downfall' meme posted on social media has led to a worker being sacked from his job.

The Australian Workers' Union (AWU) is considering an appeal to a Fair Work Commission decision which upheld the sacking of a BP technician from his workplace in Kwinana, Western Australia.

The AWU said the man, who is said to be an experienced employee, was let go because he created a meme in "parody" of enterprise bargaining negotiations at BP.

The meme, posted in a private Facebook group with around 100 members -- including other BP employees and their friends -- was a version of the popular 'Downfall' meme, from the 2004 German film of the same name, which chronicles the final days of Adolf Hitler's life in 1945.

It has been a popular meme online for over a decade, with users placing their own subtitles over a scene where Hitler is enraged after being told by his generals that Germany will likely be defeated in the war.

It is often used as a 'reaction' meme, with subtitles detailing how someone would react angrily upon hearing upsetting news.

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Website KnowYourMeme describes the 'Downfall' movie as "spawning hundreds of anachronistically subtitled videos of Hitler getting upset over topical events and trivial gossip." One such meme, with 2.5 million views on Youtube since being uploaded in 2009, is titled 'Hitler Is Informed His Pizza Will Arrive Late'.

But the meme has now been embroiled in an industrial relations case, with the WA-based BP employee sacked over his use of the meme in the private Facebook group.

A FWC hearing, considering the man's case for unfair dismissal, upheld BP's decision.

"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," deputy president FWC Melanie Binet said, adding her thought that labelling something as parody was a "get out of jail free card".

The AWU said Binet had said she was "satisfied that when viewed in context that a reasonable person would consider the Hitler video inappropriate and offensive."

In statement to 10 daily, a BP spokesperson said "We do not comment on individual cases."

"We can say that our values and behaviours are incredibly important to us and are upheld across all of our sites, including offices, refineries and retail."

Photo: Getty

The AWU said BP claimed the video -- which 10 daily has not viewed --  was an "offensive and inappropriate video depicting BP representatives involved in the current…. negotiations as Nazis.”

This is a "misunderstanding" of the meme and the joke, said AWU National Secretary, Daniel Walton.

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“'Hitler Downfall’ videos are a joke, but the decision to sack a worker over one is not,” 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."

Walton said BP's response was an over-reaction to a popular and well-known meme.

“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," he said.

"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."

Contact the author jobutler@networkten.com.au