A former South 32 worker who was sacked for working in his underwear has launched an unfair dismissal application.

Dave McLachlan, a union rep at the South 32 Appin Mine, was protesting the company’s workwear rules and laundry services by organising industrial action in which miners at Appin wore only their underwear for 10 minutes.

The staff were angry about South32's supply of work clothes and alleged delay of more than a year in providing a promised laundry service, something the CFMEU says is a component of the enterprise agreement.

The CFMEU and the ACTU have launched a national TV ad campaign and protests to have Mr McLachlan reinstated, while the CFMEU has launched an unfair dismissal application on his behalf as well.

Mr McLachlan told Fairfax that he is “extremely disappointed” to have been terminated over the “light-hearted protest”, which was strategically planned for when the miners were above ground for a pre-planned meeting.

CFMEU south-west district secretary Lee Webb said South 32 has responded too harshly.

“The company are saying Dave broke the code of conduct for South32. They don’t believe that the protest was appropriate, they say it was against the Fair Work Act,” Mr Webb said.

“They say that the photos that ended up in the media were inappropriate and not a good thing for the company.”

CFMEU South Western District Vice President Bob Timbs said managers continue to refuse repeated requests for their basic entitlements to be honoured.

“The guys work in heavy industrial environments which basically destroy their work clothes and a laundry service was agreed with the company to manage that issue,” Mr Timbs said.

“The issue was so important to workers that they traded off wages for this service so while mining managers who have the luxury of air conditioned offices may not understand this, the service is a indispensable part of the enterprise agreement.

“South32’s refusal to comply with the Agreement is a disgrace and workers who had reached the end of their tether decided to act with a 10 minute protest action.”