The two colleges of social work have reaffirmed their intention to work together despite an apparent conflict of interest arising from BASW – the College of Social Work’s decision to form a trade union.
BASW members voted 82% in favour of establishing an independent arm’s length trade union, to be called the Social Workers Union, at the association’s annual general meeting last week.
The vast majority (94%) of the 170 members who voted at the AGM also approved the BASW council’s decision to work towards a merger with the College of Social Work hosted by the Social Care Institute for Excellence, resulting in the creation of a single college by January 2012.
However, some members raised concerns during the AGM that the results of the two votes were mutually exclusive, because the Scie-hosted College has already agreed in principle to form a partnership with Unison, which has around 40,000 social worker members.
Responding to the concerns, BASW chair Fran Fuller said: “Our members have said very clearly that they want an independent social workers’ union, and that’s what we’ll be setting up.
“We haven’t seen the memorandum of understanding between the College and Unison yet, so we don’t know how that’s going to interface with BASW’s trade union arm.
“We’ll seek to get round the table with the interim board and with Unison to try and thrash out some of the issues.”
BASW reacted angrily when the College announced a joint membership deal with Unison last November. BASW said the college should develop its own trade union arm, to ensure it remained independent of any one union’s particular interests.
The association went on to rebrand itself as BASW – the College of Social Work and in January announced its intention to form a rival college.
However, the two organisations announced on 20 May that they had signed a memorandum of agreement to work towards merging into a single college. A joint working group has been set up to discuss issues such as the relationship between the college and trade unions.
Maurice Bates, interim co-chair of the Scie-hosted College, said it remained committed to its arrangement with Unison.
He added: “It is inevitable that there will be complex issues to be resolved, and the AGM vote in favour of setting up a new union is one of them.
“But we are cautiously optimistic that any remaining problems can be resolved, especially now that both organisations [BASW and the Scie-hosted College] have signed up to the memorandum of understanding.”
Unison declined to comment on BASW’s trade union proposals.
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