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Fresh fears for BlindCraft as workers reject new deal

THE fate of Edinburgh's BlindCraft factory was hanging in the balance today after workers rejected proposals for a three-day working week designed to secure the short-term future of the factory.

In a ballot last night, workers at the Craigmillar-based bed-making factory turned down plans for reduced hours - a solution originally drawn up by their own representatives - describing the action as "a cut too far".

A Community Union spokesman said workers felt they could not live with a reduced wage.

BlindCraft, a supported employment business which receives an annual council subsidy, was earmarked for closure to save 700,000 last November and was only saved when the trade union proposed that staff would move to a three-day week until the workshop's long-term future could be secured.

Community Union campaign manager John Paul McHugh said: "With all the information to hand, the three-day week has proved to be a cut too far and the workforce feel it will be too great a burden to try and carry on under those circumstances.

"Having originally proposed the three-day week as a way to save BlindCraft, the workforce are disappointed that it has come to this, but they didn't have confidence in the council and the management to make the plan work.

"Clearly, this is a situation that has been created by Edinburgh City Council's budget cuts - it is a mammoth task for BlindCraft to find 700,000 of savings in one year without crippling the business or exploiting the workforce.

"We have not given up hope of securing a better future for the BlindCraft workforce."

It is understood many of the 53 employees - about half of whom are blind or disabled - were originally unwilling to accept the move to a three-day working week because of concerns they would be entitled to a 40 per cent lower redundancy rate if the business was closed, which could mean some individuals losing up to 13,000.

But the city council subsequently made workers an offer to protect redundancy entitlement at the level they would receive for a full working week.

Deputy council leader Steve Cardownie said: "I was informed late last night of the workforce's decision and I have to say it is surprising. We pulled out all the stops to make the proposal to the workers as attractive as possible but it's obviously not attractive enough.

"That said, I completely understand the workers' situation financially and their having to cope with switching to a three-day week.

"We are meeting with the unions later today to discuss the situation and a report will be submitted to the council on February 10."

 
 
 

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