College of Social Work delays launch over union action

The College of Social Work has postponed its launch amid growing concerns over its partnership with Unison.

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The College of Social Work has postponed its launch amid growing concerns over its partnership with Unison.

College officials announced the launch event for stakeholders, due to be held on 29 November, would be delayed because of the TUC’s national public sector pensions strike, which is planned for the following day.

However, according to a report in The Guardian today, another factor may have been the ongoing dispute with the British Association of Social Workers (BASW) over the College’s tie-up with Unison.

It is alleged that the launch event was postponed after Graham Stuart, the Tory chair of the Commons education select committee, wrote and talked to Andrew Lansley, the health secretary, and Michael Gove, the education secretary, expressing his and BASW’s concerns.

This followed a meeting of the education select committee earlier this month, where MPs including Stuart questioned the College’s independence under the arrangement with Unison.

Under the proposed deal, members of the College would automatically become members of Unison unless they chose to opt out.

Stuart said he and his colleagues from all three main parties were “collectively horrified to find that government money was being used to start a closed shop for Unison at the expense of other unions which represent social workers”.

Hilton Dawson, chief executive of BASW, confirmed that his organisation has given formal notice of seeking a judicial review of the partnership arrangement, adding that BASW was “quite prepared to push the case along as far as we can”.

Maurice Bates, co-chair of the College, said it remained on course to open for business as planned despite the postponement of next week’s launch, which will now take place on 4 January, and the threat of legal action.

A statement from the College, issued in response to The Guardian‘s story, said: “Earlier this week we postponed a conference we had planned to run on the eve of the TUC day of action. We postponed it because it had become clear that many of those who would have been attending the conference will be busy in their local authorities.

“The College of Social Work’s transition board will be meeting in December and will be reflecting carefully on feedback from the education select committee and others, which we have found very helpful.”

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