An unjustified dismissal at Fonterra

David Farrar

An interesting case from the Employment Relations Authority: A Fonterra worker was dismissed for taking part in two Harlem Shake meme videos filmed at the company's Takanini plant.

Reading the judgment I agree that dismissal way way over the top for a pretty minor infringement of the rules.

The health and safety risk was minimal, and the appropriate reaction would have been a warning at most.

Dismissal was an over-reaction and it is good to see an order for reinstatement.

Political commentator David Farrar posts at Kiwiblog.

BELOW: the two Harlem Shake videos uploaded to YouTube that led to Fonterra worker Craig Flynn's dismissal. Although it reinstated Mr Flynn on a permanent basis, the ERA said his actions were "causative of the outcome and blameworthy" and did not award him any damages. The Authority reserved its decision on costs. The smoko break prank occurred in March last year. Soon after, the ERA ordered Fonterra to temporarily reinstate Mr Flynn until a substantive hearing, the result of which was released yesterday. - Editor.

For readers who've been locked out of the house for the past year, Harlem Shake was an internet meme that hit the net in early 2013.

Videos last between 30 and 32 seconds and feature an excerpt from the song "Harlem Shake" by electronic musician Baauer. Usually, a video begins with one person (often helmeted or masked) dancing to the song alone for 15 seconds, surrounded by other people not paying attention or unaware of the dancing individual. When the bass drops, the video cuts to the entire crowd doing a crazy convulsive dance for the next 15 seconds.

The most famous local example was performed by the Shortland Street cast:

Here's a compilation of others:

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Any dismissals at Fonterra right now should be focused on the senior management team


Agree totally John, although it was interesting to hear the CEO late last year saying "the whole thing is totally unsustainable", which I guess either warrants instant dismissal or instant promotion, depending on your point of view.

Back to the current thing: what about the other people in the video? How come they restricted the dismissal to one person?


I think you've got this one wrong, David. If you knew anything about microbiology you would understand why, what Mr Flynn was doing, fell short of what's appropriate to be doing at a food manufacturer. Hint, he's not dressed up like that because he's a space cadet. I'm sure he didn't do it to be wilful, he possibly didn't realise himself. He was just having fun. However, if that is indicative of the culture inside Fonterra then I'm not surprised it's had some issues lately, to put it mildly.


From what I observed on TV and this video, the three individuals should have been summarily dismissed. Totally irresponsible and immature behaviour around machinery. No wonder the ACC levies are so high.


Good grief, one thing I have learned in my working life is that as a manager you get one chance to alienate your workforce and nothing accomplishes this faster that a draconian over reaction to what was intended as some harmless fun and in this case the senior management team are not exactly a model of excellence when it comes to their performance in the public eye, so yes a warning but no more


The best possible response from the Fonterra management team would be their own Harlem Shake video filmed in the boardroom.

Unfortunately global buyers probably wouldn't know what to make of that in the wake of recent Fonterra missteps.


Perhaps what we have been seeing with Fonterra's continuing problems is top management's version of the Dairy Harlem Shake.
If so we can do without any more.


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