3. Dear OASW Members:
On September 30, 2010, after extensive deliberation, the OASW Board of Directors sent a letter to the Canadian Association of Social Workers (CASW) informing them of our decision, effective March 31, 2011, to suspend membership in CASW for a period of one year, ending as of March 31, 2012. This six-month notification period is specified in the terms of the Memorandum of Understanding signed by all provincial/territorial member organizations of CASW.
The Alberta College of Social Workers (ACSW) gave notice on September 27, 2010 that they would be terminating membership in CASW effective March 31, 2011. OASW’s decision to suspend membership in CASW was not precipitated by ACSW’s decision. ACSW’s stated reasons focused on the level of fees they pay to CASW and “the value for money aspect” of their continued membership in CASW.
Quebec terminated membership in CASW and from the federation in 2003 in circumstances similar to those involving ACSW.
“Suspending” membership differs from “terminating” membership. Suspension of membership reflects a progression of actions along a continuum of decision-making. By suspending membership for one year, OASW has kept the door open for further discussions with CASW, thereby allowing time to re-evaluate over this period of time whether there is evidence that the concerns which led to the OASW Board’s decision have been addressed and/or that a new, constructive relationship can be forged.
OASW’s Reasons for Decision
OASW’s decision was the culmination of unresolved issues, a number of which extend back over many years and encompass several CASW Boards of Directors. Moreover, this decision reflects the fact that the OASW Board is committed to their role as financial stewards of monies received through membership fees and believes strongly that, at all levels, “value” needs to be demonstrated in return for membership fees.
The reasons for the decision are as follows:
· Lack of a clear vision and leadership role related to the profession at the national level.
Since June 2006, OASW has expressed strong concerns about the lack of a leadership role for CASW related to the profession in their strategic plan. Discussion since that time has reflected diverse opinions within CASW’s Board and membership organizations regarding the relative importance and need for CASW to address issues related to professional advocacy and promotion of the profession. This is in sharp contrast to feedback in a 2007 OASW membership survey, which placed high priority on activities/services that target issues directly related to challenges confronting the profession. In another OASW membership survey, which focused on CASW initiatives and services, the majority of OASW respondents reported receiving “little value” from CASW membership.
- · CASW’s fee formula has failed to recognize OASW’s differential fee categories.
CASW’s fee formula has been a long-standing concern because less than half of OASW members pay the “full-time employed” fee and only a small percentage of members are students; however, CASW’s fee formula is based on two categories (full-time members and students). Therefore, OASW remits the same fee to CASW for all members (except students) despite the fact that over 50% of members pay part-time or reduced fees due to OASW’s more responsive fee structure.
In 2009, 12.3% of OASW revenues from membership fees we collect, or $134,498, was paid to CASW
Over many years, OASW has invested a great deal of time, energy and fiscal as well as human resources in attempts to have our serious concerns addressed. We have done so as an individual organization and in partnership with other member organizations. This has been a difficult decision in light of social work principles to negotiate and collaborate in order to resolve problems.
In June 2009, widespread concerns about how CASW functioned, along with unresolved issues related to the fee formula, led to a request by the member organizations for an operational review to be undertaken of CASW’s processes, structure and operational management. Provincial/ territorial membership organizations demonstrated their commitment to this review by shouldering one half of the cost of the review, in addition to paying ongoing membership allocations to CASW.
A comprehensive operational review was conducted in the winter of 2009/2010 by the Agora Group, an experienced external consulting firm (contracted through a request for proposal process). Recommendations from a highly credible report by the Agora Group on the operational review were discussed at a national meeting held in Montreal in May 2010. At this meeting, OASW, as well as a number of other provincial/territorial member organizations, expressed deep concerns about the level of CASW’s commitment to implement the recommendations in a manner that would result in the fundamental changes required to address how CASW conducts its business.
Despite this reservation, OASW agreed to serve on a CASW Operational Review Sub-Committee that held extensive discussions over the summer months with the aim of developing an action plan with priorities and timelines to implement recommendations from the report. The outcome of this process has left OASW even more convinced that CASW will not be able to make the required changes to provide the vision and leadership essential for the decade ahead.
OASW does not believe that the broader interests of the profession will be served by our remaining within the federation.
In the near future, we will be surveying our members in regard to their interests and needs as well as seeking input with respect to CASW membership. We will use this information along with evidence of growth and renewal in CASW’s national leadership role to evaluate movement in this regard. Should we see signs of this growth, OASW would be open to re-evaluating its decision regarding membership in the national organization. In fact, the crisis created by our suspension of membership for one year may propel this occurring.
What about professional liability insurance?
OASW members, who hold AON professional liability insurance through CASW, will continue to receive coverage under their existing policy until their individual policy renewal date*. OASW is confident that it can negotiate a new, comprehensive professional liability insurance program, which will be comparable in both coverage and price to replace the current AON program. We are currently in the process of negotiating such a plan.
*For example, members who renewed their policy in October 2010 will have coverage in place until the end of the policy on October 31, 2011. New policies issued between October 31st and March 31st will be in effect until October 31, 2011.
What does this mean regarding support for social advocacy at a national level?
OASW remains committed to social advocacy at the national level. In 2009/10, OASW assumed a leadership role related to supporting the work being done by Cindy Blackstock in regard to the under-funding of child welfare services for First Nations children living on reserves. Moreover, we have consistently supported the call for Repeal of Section 43, Criminal Code regarding corporal punishment of children. OASW is a provincial partner in Campaign 2000 and supports provincial and national advocacy initiatives for the alleviation of child poverty. We will remain active in these advocacy initiatives and will respond to other key social justice concerns as they arise at a national level.
What does OASW plan to do with the money it previously gave to CASW?
Until March 31, 2011, OASW will continue to pay the regular allocations to CASW. During the suspension period, which will begin on April 1, 2011, OASW is committed to ensuring that the money saved by not paying allocations to CASW is targeted to meet the needs of members. A number of options are being explored within the context of the 2011 Budget.
Strong consideration will be given to reducing fees during the period of this suspension for all categories except for those that are currently significantly discounted. Please note that all Association members receive the same services and benefits regardless of their fee category.
If you have any questions, they can be directed to:
-Joan MacKenzie Davies, OASW Executive Director, firstname.lastname@example.org or 416-923-4848
-Kate Power, OASW President, email@example.com
-Anne Sawarna, CASW Director for Ontario & OASW Past President, firstname.lastname@example.org