Maurice Bates and Corinne May-Chahal are the interim co-chairs of the College of Social Work
The College of Social Work has set itself an unprecedented challenge. Our role is to speak up for social work and put the profession on the same rock-solid foundations as other caring professions like nursing, medicine and occupational therapy.
But our success depends on representing the majority of social workers, which is why we want to have 51% of them as members by 2015.
That means giving social workers compelling reasons to join us and making it easy for them to do so.
Our proposed deal with Unison ticks both of these boxes, by bringing together the College’s strong professional voice for social work with representation by the union that is recognised by the employers of most social workers, and by making it straightforward and cost-effective to join both organisations at once through the College.
There has been much speculation that our agreement with Unison will compromise our independence. This is simply untrue.
The agreement will expressly safeguard the independence of both organisations and the financial benefit to the College will be exactly proportionate to the number of members we gain from it.
Some social workers have told us they want a choice of trade unions brokered by the College.
We are exploring whether this will be possible and affordable, but we have to bear in mind that more choice means more administrative costs, which might be better spent on working with and supporting our members. No one will be forced to join Unison or any other union.
The proposed deal allows us to offer Unison membership as part of a broader package of member benefits, a tried and tested model in the commercial world.
Given that we want at least 45,000 social workers to join us over the next four years, it also makes good sense for us to partner Unison because it already has approximately 40,000 social work members in England, far more than any other organisation.
It will be relatively easy to market College membership to them, optimising our chances of finding the large numbers we seek.
In 41 years of existence, despite valiant efforts BASW [BASW- The College of Social Work] has never represented more than a fraction of the social work profession.
That is why the new College needs a radically different business model from BASW’s current one.
Our members will be free to opt out of the Unison deal if they want to, and self-employed social workers will be able to access advice and insurance, but we firmly believe that most will see trade union representation as a valuable benefit.
If every social worker speaks through the College, it will be heard loud and clear by government and the media.
By working in partnership with Unison to build our membership, we can make it happen.
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