Court upholds one dismissal, orders other be reinstated

TWO separate court battles have delivered starkly different results after two miners faced being sacked for their behaviour at separate union rallies.

In each case, the Construction Forestry Mining and Energy Union took BHP Coal to the Federal Court alleging that each worker was targeted for their union connections.

Both protests were part of wide-ranging industrial action, protests and work stoppages prompted by a bitter and long-running enterprise bargaining dispute.

In the first case, BHP threatened Dysart man Walter "Brad" Meacle with termination through a show-cause notice.

Mr Meacle was accused of yelling "scab c***" at a non-union worker's passing four-wheel-drive as part of a protest at the now-mothballed Norwich Park mine in March.

A month earlier at the Saraji coal mine near Moranbah, machine operator Henk Doevendans was found by BHP to have broken company policy when he waved a sign attacking "scabs" outside the mine during a week-long stoppage.

Both Saraji and Norwich Park are owned by the BHP Billiton Mitsubishi Alliance.

Again, the union flew into action to defend Mr Doevendans claiming unfair targeting of a unionised worker and a breach of the Fair Work Act.

Under cross-examination, Mr Meacle denied saying "scab c***" but admitted to yelling "Go home", a claim the judge described as unlikely.

Mr Meacle was clearly identified by the non-union worker who made the complaint.

The union had demanded the court void BHP's order for Mr Meacle to justify why he should not be sacked

On Friday, Justice Bruce Lander found BHP had not been in breach and dismissed the case. The company will now continue its investigation into Mr Meacle's behaviour.

The CFMEU fared better in Mr Doevendans' case on Wednesday, with the Federal Court ordering BHP to give him back his job.

In this fight, Mr Doevendans - who had worked at Saraji for 24 years - was fired after BHP accused him of waving a sign reading "No principles Scabs No guts" at least four times during industrial action in February.

The sign was taken to be "conspicuously offensive" by Judge Christopher Jessup.

But Mr Doevendans was to be reinstated because the action itself was co-ordinated and orchestrated by the CFMEU.

If waving a sign was part of an lawful industrial protest, then sacking him for waving a scabs sign at the protest was in breach of the Fair Work Act.

BMA welcomed the Meacle result saying it would not stand for breaches to its code of conduct.

A CFMEU spokesman said the union was satisfied with the Federal Court's finding in the Doevendans case that protected workers during industrial actions.

BMA and the union would now consider appealing the decisions on Doevendans and Meacle respectively.

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