Facebook post could spell dismissal for Waitangi worker

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A Waitangi based woman is facing the sack over a Facebook post.

Meat processing company AFFCO is reportedly deciding whether Ratu’s post on an MP’s Facebook page – a direct breach of the protocol surrounding the agreement-making process with her union – should result in her dismissal.

On April 17, Roberta Ratu posted on Waiariki MP Te Ururoa Flavell's Facebook page to publicise a petition titled ‘Jobs that Count’.

On April 28, AFFCO sent a letter to Ratu warning her that she could face dismissal or not be re-engaged by the company if the Facebook post was not removed.

The letter reportedly referred to Ratu’s post as a “public media release” that was a breach of the company’s code of conduct and house rules.

According to The Herald, AFFCO had entered into a bargaining agreement with the union which required a “consultation process for media releases”.

HRM spoke to Laura Scampion, partner at DLA Piper New Zealand, about the possible outcomes of the case.

“Recent case law in the employment law forums already demonstrates the courts willingness to accept behaviour on social media as being akin to real life,” Scampion explained. “If an employee’s behaviour on social media brings an organisation or company into disrepute an employer may be entitled to discipline or even dismiss the employee. As an employer, it is important to ensure that there are clear parameters set for employees that establish acceptable behaviour on social media.”

Scampion added that employers need to set the boundaries as soon as the onboarding process.

“Employment agreements should ideally include a clause that sets out the company's expectations of social media use, including use in the employee's private time or in a private setting,” she told HRM. “Many organisations also have a blanket ban or place heavy restrictions on employees making media statements generally.  This appears to be the case with AFFCO and Ms Ratu.  Making a ‘public media release’ in breach of an employment agreement could certainly land an employee in a disciplinary meeting and potentially lead to dismissal.”

Ratu’s post on Flavell’s Facebook page stated:

Kia Ora Te Ururoa. Im a butcher @ AFFCO Rangiuru and we are currently in negotiations for a new agreement with AFFCO Talleys. Our last agreement expired in 2013 and we have been working on this one waiting for Talleys to negotiate a new one. At the moment we are covered by the expired agreement. Recently this week we have had a shutdown. When we return, we are not sure what Talleys will be offering the workers - to sign their individual employment agreement (IEA) or continue on our collective employment agreement (CEA) I know you came and supported us when we had a Lockout in 2012 and we really appreciated it. Thank you so much. Now we need your support once again. Can you please sign our petition for JOBS THAT COUNT. All we want is a fair deal.

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