Published: 10 Nov 2017
Following a concerted union movement campaign led by the CFMEU, the Wollongong miner at the centre of the “undie” protest, Dave McLachlan, has been reinstated by the Fair Work Commission this afternoon.
The Commission found Dave’s unfair dismissal by Illawwarra Coal’s South32 to be “harsh, unjust and unreasonable”.
Workers at the Appin Colliery participated in a ten minute protest last May over South32’s refusal to provide replacement work clothes and a laundry service for miners at the Appin Colliery – a condition of their enterprise agreement.
Dave’s dismissal by South32 for his quirky protest became a symbol around the country for workers fighting the erosion of their rights and conditions by big corporations.
The CFMEU National President Tony Maher said it was a victory for workers’ basic right to stand up for themselves.
“Workers must be entitled to take action when employers breach their legal obligations to them, without fear of vicious, unwarranted and over the top reactions by their bosses,” Tony Maher said.
“A harmless, ten minute protest over what is rightfully owed should not result in the sacking of any worker – particularly one with a 30 year unblemished record of service to their employer.
“And it’s not just any employer. South32, a spinoff of BHP, is an Australian ‘Top 30’ listed company making mega-profits from Australian coal while it slashes vulnerable contract employees’ pay by up to 40 per cent.
“Common sense and fairness has prevailed today, but it took a six month legal battle and public campaign to overturn Dave’s unfair dismissal.
“The CFMEU has stood behind Dave every step of the way and we will never back down in supporting our members fighting for their basic working rights and conditions.”
The Fair Work Commissioner found the undies protest did not constitute unlawful industrial action and found Dave to be a person of good character and an “honest and decent person”.
The Commissioner accepted the arguments that reinstatement was the only appropriate outcome and ordered Dave reinstated with full continuity of employment and the amount of back-pay owing to be agreed by the parties.