Three-day week 'could save factory'

WORKERS at Edinburgh's BlindCraft factory were today being told the council plans to close it down with the loss of all 70 jobs.

• Blindcraft workers make their point alongside Scottish Labour leader Iain Gray

The workforce was called to a meeting this morning to be told of a report due to go to next week's full meeting of the city council, recommending closure, which will save 700,000.

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But one of the unions representing employees - half of whom are blind or disabled - said it would back a three-day week as a short-term measure until the future of the Craigmillar factory could be secured.

Steve McCool of Community, the trade union with the most members at BlindCraft, said he believed the factory could still be saved if a strategic plan could be agreed for the future of supported workplaces across the country. He said short-time working could buy time to find a proper solution.

Mr McCool said the BlindCraft factory, which manufactures beds, had to diversify and agree a more co-ordinated approach with similar operations elsewhere in Scotland.

He said: "What we have at the moment is all these workplaces competing. There are five BlindCraft places in Scotland and they are all in beds to some degree.

"There needs to be more co-ordination and the factories can all look at individual niches." He said short-time working was an option which had to be considered in the meantime.

"That could buy us time to create a situation where they were not all competing against one another."

He said the factory may need to go down to a three-day week until a solution was found.

"If that's what we have to do to secure the future of the factory, that might be the pain the union and the members have to accept," he said.

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"The other option is closure and many of these people would never be employed again."

Earlier this week, Enterprise Minister Jim Mather convened a summit on the future of BlindCraft, bringing together trade unions, council chiefs and government departments.

Staff from the factory, campaigners fighting to save it and MSPs who had raised the issue in parliament were not invited.

Afterwards, a Scottish Government spokesman said it had been "constructive" and "provided options", but he added: "Decisions remain a matter for the city council."

However, Paul Edie, the council's health and social care leader, said the summit had changed little.

He said: "I'm always prepared to listen to ideas, but no-one is coming up with anything we have not already considered."

The report for the council meeting shows a three-day week could save 650,000 -almost as much as closure.

Labour's Lesley Hinds said: "The option of a three-day week is something the council should support if it is supported by the workforce."