Government ministers have defended the College of Social Work’s tie-up with Unison following criticism from the education select committee earlier this month.
Graham Stuart MP, chair of the committee, wrote to children’s minister Tim Loughton and care services minister Paul Burstow on 9 November to express concern about the agreement, which would see members of the College automatically become members of Unison unless they chose to opt out.
The British Association of Social Workers (BASW) has strongly objected to the partnership agreement, claiming it could compromise the independence of the College.
After taking evidence on the issue, Stuart said in his letter to Loughton and Burstow: “We fear that in the College’s insistence on quick mass recruitment of members by forging a special financial relationship with one particular union, credibility may have been sacrificed for expediency in setting up the College.”
He added: “In this context, we feel that greater direction from ministers is now required.”
Loughton responded by reassuring Stuart that he and Burstow had been “working closely together over a considerable period of time” to find a solution to the dispute between the College and BASW.
He wrote: “On the question of the proposed membership arrangements with Unison, we do not see an issue of principle in an arrangement that secures employee representation services for members of the College.
“However, we do understand that the presentation and some of the proposed details of the arrangement have caused some concern.”
Loughton said he and Burstow were meeting with the College to discuss these issues and would keep Stuart informed of any developments.
Read the letters and written evidence submitted to the committee
College of Social Work delays launch over union action