Jake Kuiken, Calgary suggests: …as a way to keep administrative costs to a minimum, provincial organizations should continue the role of collecting the fees but should be excluded from controlling membership or annual fees to CASW – that’s a function that belongs to those of us who pay the fees. …

Jake Kuiken critiques the fees argument for withdrawl from the CASW

I’d like to add my voice to those who have expressed concern about ACSW and OASW giving notice to end their relationship with the Canadian Association of Social Workers. While it is legitimate to raise the issue of fees, as Alberta has done, the tactics employed by the Council of ACSW leave a great deal to be desired. The reasoning appears to go like this, “If you don’t accept our proposal for paying less, we quit.” On the face of it, that style of reasoning ought to be foreign to social workers.

It’s ironic that Alberta is making fees one of its key arguments for at least two reasons. First, the claims of operating with a deficit is at least partly fictitious because it includes a calculation of a decline in the market value of bonds which were not actually sold but do correctly reflect their impact on the financial state of ACSW if they had been sold on their valuation date. The second reason is that the ACSW instituted a fee increase of $50 a year during 2010. While the full amount of additional revenue will not be available until 2011, with more than 6,000 members, the additional revenue may well amount to something in the order of $250,000.00 per year. If you add that amount to the elimination of the CASW fees, ACSW Council has additional revenues of nearly $450,000.00 at its disposal with no apparent plans that have been shared with the membership.

In terms of “value for money,” one of those phrases so loved by neoliberals, I receive much greater value for my meager annual contribution to CASW than the $300 to ACSW. Admittedly, ACSW has a regulatory function but if I count the number of meaningful communications from ACSW and CASW that actually advance the profession’s goals, CASW wins hands down. I counted the meaningful communications from ACSW for 6 months and there were substantially less than 10, while I received well in excess of 25 from CASW during the same period.

The functional identity of the social work profession is determined largely by public policy (or its absence) and increasingly the broad themes of those policies are generated through international organizations with a global impact. Both ACSW, and I imagine OASW, have functionally decided to isolate and separate themselves, each for the reasons they have given. My view is that it is foolish to have done so rather than broadening the base of the discussions with their membership. Not having done so has sent a powerful message to social workers in Alberta and Ontario and perhaps even nationally. That message is that it’s time to wrest the control of membership in CASW and IFSW away from the Councils or Boards of provincial organizations and return it to social workers themselves. As a pragmatic matter and as a way to keep administrative costs to a minimum, provincial organizations should continue the role of collecting the fees but should be excluded from controlling membership or annual fees to CASW – that’s a function that belongs to those of us who pay the fees. Meanwhile, CASW needs to continue increasing its presence in the public policy discussions in Ottawa and internationally. Likewise, it needs to strengthen its capacity to promote the profession. To do those things even more effectively, CASW may well need some additional resources as well as directly engaging larger numbers of members across the country.

ACSW and OASW have provided social workers across Canada with an opportunity to refocus our collective interests nationally and internationally. In a global community we should be thankful and we can best illustrate that by seizing the opportunity to take back CASW!

jkuiken@ucalgary.ca
Jake Kuiken

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