Mining and Heavy Industries, Staffing, Recruitment & Training

Union rep who abused colleagues reinstated

Coal. Photo: Shutterstock

South32 has been ordered to reinstate a coal worker who verbally abused and physically threatened his co-workers, after the Fair Work Commission ruled the expression “f***ing c**t” was reasonable language to use at a coal mine.

CFMEU lodge president Matthew Gosek was sacked from his job at South32’s Dendrobium mine in the Illawarra, after he allegedly threatened to kick several of the mine’s other workers out of the union, and hunt them down, because they ‘sold out’ a co-worker.

Over phone calls and text messages in a four- to five-hour span, he allegedly challenged them to physical altercations, and labelled them “f**ing dog”, “c**t”, and “dog c**t”.

According to an AFR report, Gosek apologised for his actions the following day, saying he was battling depression and alcohol abuse. He was nonetheless sacked by South32 for his actions.

But Gosek has offered to step down as a union rep, and under that condition, Fair Work Commissioner Bernie Riordan has ordered the company give him back his job.

Riordan conceded Gosek’s conduct breached the mine’s anti-bullying policy, but that it was not a breach of contract, and thus his sacking was a harsh response.

He said swearing at a mine site was “unfortunate but very commonplace”.

“In my experience, the expression f**ing c**t is commonly used across all walks of life in society,” Riordan was quoted as saying by Fairfax. “Inserting the word ‘dog’ into the phrase, does not necessarily make the phrase anymore offensive or intimidatory.”

When South32 lawyers posited that some workers’ families were exposed to the language, Riordan said those families were also exposed to foul language in the household, and that they understood their relatives “work in a coalmine – not a convent”.

“The use of inappropriate language in this workplace is commonplace and has been condoned by Illawarra Coal for at least five years,” he was quoted. “To set a precedent with Mr Gosek, without warning, would be unfair.”

South32 has seven days to reinstate Gosek, and was ordered to pay him all of his lost wages since his January dismissal, minus 25% for “poor conduct”.

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