Employee sacked for underwear protest

by HCA08 May 2017
The CFMEU and the ACTU have launched a national campaign of TV ads and protests to have Dave McLachlan reinstated after he was dismissed by the resources company South 32.

The CFMEU has also launched an unfair dismissal application on behalf of McLauchlan.

McLachlan, a union rep at the South 32 Appin Mine, was terminated six weeks after he led an 'underwear protest' over miners' work clothes and a laundry service.

The Illawarra coal worker was stood down for three weeks after the protest and later asked to “show cause” why he shouldn’t be terminated.

Miners at Appin wore their underwear for 10 minutes on March 7 to protest South32's supply of work clothes and a delay of more than a year in providing an allegedly promised laundry service. The CFMEU argued that the service was a component of the enterprise agreement.

McLachlan told Fairfax Media that he's ‘extremely disappointed’ to have been terminated over what he believed was a ‘light-hearted protest’.

He claims that the protest did not disrupt the cutting of coal at the Appin Colliery because the miners were ‘above ground’ anyway for a pre-planned meeting.

“I deliberately nominated that day [for the protest] because of that [meeting],” he said.

CFMEU south-west district secretary Lee Webb also expressed frustration at South32’s decision.

“The company are saying Dave broke the code of conduct for South32. They don’t believe that the protest was appropriate, they say it was against the Fair Work Act,” Webb said.

“They say that the photos that ended up in the media were inappropriate and not a good thing for the company.”

CFMEU South Western District Vice President Bob Timbs said workers have been trying to get the company to comply with the enterprise agreement for almost a year and several managers have refused repeated requests for their basic entitlements to be honoured.

“The guys work in heavy industrial environments which basically destroy their work clothes and a laundry service was agreed with the company to manage that issue,” said Timbs.

“The issue was so important to workers that they traded off wages for this service so while mining managers who have the luxury of air conditioned offices may not understand this, the service is a indispensable part of the enterprise agreement.

“South32’s refusal to comply with the Agreement is a disgrace and workers who had reached the end of their tether decided to act with a 10 minute protest action.”

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