Airport worker sacked for posting video on YouTube

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Airport worker sacked for posting video on YouTube

A Melbourne Airport employee who videoed himself at work and uploaded it to YouTube was not unfairly dismissed, the Fair Work Commission has ruled.

A Melbourne Airport employee who videoed himself at work and uploaded it to YouTube was not unfairly dismissed, the Fair Work Commission has ruled.

It found the worker had a safety critical role and had failed to take his responsibilities seriously. This was evidenced by "not only his lack of judgement in making the video but also his lack of judgement in posting it".

Background


Mr B was employed as a leading firefighter at Melbourne Airport. As part of his duties he worked in the Fire Control Centre, which required monitoring aircraft, alarm systems and monitors.

While on duty in the centre he videoed himself simulating playing LaunchPad – an electronic device used to provide electronic music.

While he was doing this a fire alarm sounded and he said: "oh f*** ships burning down" and then "safe". He then returned to the simulation.

The clip posted to YouTube showed the FCC watch room operator consoles, aircraft movement and the runway system.

On another occasion, the firefighter uploaded a video made by members of a training course.

That video identified Airservices staff and included a shot from inside a male locker room where a staff member exposes his buttocks. 

Was dismissal harsh?


Mr B accepted that videoing the Launchpad simulation was misconduct and was a valid reason for dismissal.

However, he submitted the dismissal was harsh and disproportionate to the conduct.

He claimed that at the time of the simulation there were no aircraft taking off or landing for several minutes prior or afterwards.

He also submitted that:
  • uploading the video was only low level misconduct as it was not widely viewed
  • the delay in responding to the alarm was very short and could occur in the FCC for various reasons, including leisure activities that were permitted by Airservices
  • the risk arising from his conduct was exaggerated. 

Findings


Deputy president Gooley said he was satisfied there was significant aircraft movement at the time Mr B was making his video.

He also found Mr B deliberately brought his camera into the FCC, had distracted himself from his primary task, and had diminished his situational awareness.

"I also find the video had the potential to damage the reputation of Airservices," DP Gooley said.

"The video shows an employee of Airservices playing a game whilst on duty. It shows him continuing to play the game whilst an alarm goes off. It records the flippant response to the alarm by the employee."

The deputy president said Mr B’s conduct was not at the low level of misconduct.

"Mr B chose to engage in the Launchpad simulation when he should have been performing his duties. I accept that fire fighters were permitted other distractions and that arguably he could have been reading a newspaper or making himself a meal and the same sequence of events may have occurred. However this analysis misses the point. Those activities were ones that Airservices permitted. None of those activities were permitted to take precedence over his primary obligations. It is difficult to understand how, given he knew he was not to have his mobile phone on when on duty, he thought it was OK to video himself doing the simulation."

The commission heard that Mr B had been counselled about his mobile phone use at work in early 2013 on two occasions. His response was that he felt "targeted".

In 2014 he uploaded photos he had taken at work to Instagram, agreeing they were most likely taken with his phone.

The commission heard Mr B's supervisor had made repeated attempts to explain to Mr B how he could improve and his attitude and conduct.

"That Mr B viewed this as being picked on showed a remarkable lack of insight," DP Gooley said.

Not a separate reason for termination


However, the deputy president did not accept that the recruit course video provided a separate valid reason for termination. 

"I accept that the production of the video was part of Mr Baird’s course. I also accept that given a number of these videos were posted on YouTube, Mr Baird could not have understood that this was inappropriate. I also accept Mr Baird’s evidence that the instructors were aware of the content and did not advise those who made the video that it contained inappropriate content," he said.

Ruling


DP Gooley ruled there was a valid reason for the dismissal and Mr B had been afforded procedural fairness.

"Mr B did not have an unblemished employment history," he said.

"While I have sympathy for his loss of career, it is not sufficient for me to determine that the dismissal was harsh."

The application was dismissed.

PB v  Airservices Australia (U2016/13697)[2017] FWC 1946
 
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