Hot air over an inflatable rat

Sure, it must be uncomfortable for a CEO of a corporation that is devastating the livelihoods of an established workforce, to have a giant inflatable rodent popping its head over the garden hedge. Embarrassing too for company directors to encounter a wobbling looming shadow at the 18th hole or bobbing on the breeze  at end of the pontoon where the company owner’s private yacht is berthed.

Trade union leverage campaigns involving party hire blow ups, however are a far cry from how Cameron would like to portray them. There is no sinister pitchfork mob charging up the hill towards the big house. That the company director of Ineos happens to be named Jim Ratcliffe was surely too much to resist for the Unite Scotland rat about to rest on its hind legs following the successful blacklisting campaign.

Unite’s inflatable rat may be this year’s Tory villain, but “Scabby the Rat” has been used by US labor union protests against the worst employer practices as far back as the early 1990s. In fact, a Noah’s Ark of kid’s party giant animal “inflatables” brandish their silly grins and funny faces working second jobs as union and social movement protesters.Rats, sharks and fat cats may be obvious, but other species sometimes get to join in the fun too. Remember the 12 foot inflatable pink elephant used in the CWU British Telecom outsourcing campaign of 2003?

How sinsiter is enlishing a rubber menagerie to bring fun to some very serious protests against the most disgraceful of employers. Blacklisters, union busters, corporate bullies that intimidate their workforce are the rogues targeted in leverage campaigns the world over. Protests generally take place outside company headquarters, board meetings and corporate events. It is only as a last resort that the private homes and leisure places of senior decision makers are targeted, when it is required to literally bring the message home. That the protest is in front of the neighbours and tennis clubs colleagues and yes, even family members is borne out of frustration that the usual channels for resolving disputes have been deliberately blocked.

So who are the scary monsters and who are the super creeps? That the UK Government is now conducting a 6 month inquiry into the use of blow-up party animals in trade union leverage campaigns is almost laughable if it wasn’t so obvious. The hastily announced inquiry into industrial relations and leverage campaigning might be nothing more than hot air, and mere Tory election propaganda seeking to demonise organised labour.


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