The British Association of Social Workers is discussing affiliation with union Unison.
Outgoing BASW chair Ronnie Barnes said that several options were being explored, including a joint membership scheme. A decision is expected by the end of the summer.
Speaking at BASW’s annual general meeting in Birmingham last week, Barnes said the association had held discussions with various unions but Unison, which has 40,000 social worker members, was “the most prominent”.
The talks come a year after BASW voted to explore strengthening links with unions. Practitioners argued this would boost membership of the association, which currently stands at 12,000. BASW would also benefit from involvement in the unions’ bargaining rights on pay and conditions, which it doesn’t have.
Barnes said that during the negotiations BASW leaders would try to minimise any increase in subscription fees and “make sure we remain independent”.
Negotiations between BASW and Unison would deal with “one of the fundamental difficulties of establishing an effective social workers’ organisation of having a trade union on one side, a professional association on the other, and two lots of membership fees,” added BASW’s chief executive Hilton Dawson.
BASW membership costs £17.25 a month, while Unison charges between £11.50 to £17.25 a month, depending on salary.
Unison’s deputy general secretary, Keith Sonnet, welcomed the opportunity to discuss how the union could work together with BASW to support social workers.
In a separate development, BASW is seeking with others to form a national college of social work to boost the status of the profession. The college would prioritise creating an integrated career structure that clearly links pay to skills, experience and qualifications. Dawson said he hoped the college “would fundamentally transform the profession”.
Listen in… BASW podcast
Hilton Dawson will be explaining his priorities for BASW and social workers in Community Care’s podcast this week. Listen in