Eastern Branch board letter to provincial president and all branches

Dear Kate:
I am writing on behalf of the Eastern Branch of OASW to express the concern and disappointment of our board regarding the decision of the provincial association to suspend membership in the Canadian Association of Social Workers. I am also writing to invite you to be the keynote speaker at the Annual General Meeting of our branch in order to outline and explain the reason for the provincial board’s action. The AGM will be conducted in conjunction with the 75th anniversary celebration of the branch on April 13, 2011. I very much hope you can attend.

The concern we have as members of the board of the second largest branch in Ontario is based upon the procedures that were followed in making the decision to suspend
membership and the rationale for that decision. With regard to procedure, we were surprised that the decision was taken without extensive consultation of the OASW membership. As an active branch and reasonably active members within the association, we and our membership were never consulted or asked our opinion about CASW. We assume that was the case elsewhere in the province.

The lack of consultation in our case is disappointing given the location of most of our members in Ottawa, our experience with CASW and our awareness of national issues
affecting social work. It is also surprising given the commitment of social work to collaboration and transparency. In our region, we have tried, since we heard about the
OASW decision, to open the dialogue around CASW among our own members through electronic and print communication. To date, the reaction to the OASW decision has not
been favorable. We invite you and others to join that conversation.
If we had known about the provincial concerns regarding CASW before we received the announcement, we would have offered such a forum earlier. Aside from the initial survey
undertaken by OASW regarding CASW, we are not aware of any effort by the provincial organization to do the same. While we know an OASW survey was undertaken on CASW, and saw the results, the provincial office did not (to our knowledge) use them to promote
dialogue.

With regard to the rationale for the decision taken by the OASW board regarding the suspension of membership in CASW, we have identified three reasons in the communiqué you issued to members in early October. The first stated reason is a lack of clear vision and leadership related to the profession at the national level. The second is a failure on the part of CASW to recognize OASW’s differential fee categories. A third is that a “majority” of OASW members report “little value” from CASW membership.

In response to the first concern, CASW, in cooperation with OASW and other member provincial associations, undertook an organizational and governance review through the
AGORA group. That, in turn, led to recommendations, most of which CASW has incorporated into an Action Plan. While a few of the recommendations around a proposed
governance model (Carver) have not yet been proposed for implementation, a new governance model is being considered.

In response to the second concern – the fee formula – a recent CASW communiqué issued by the national president announced a 20% reduction in fees for OASW. It also promised
to engage in further negotiations regarding the fee formula with OASW and the Alberta College of Social Workers – the two largest contributors to CASW.

Regarding the third concern – that a “majority” of OASW respondents in a provincial membership survey reported receiving “little value” from CASW membership. While not having the data and analysis to inform ourselves, we do not understand how the provincial office came up with that conclusion.

As we interpret the survey results, 13.6% of OASW members stated that OASW’s affiliation with CASW added no value to their membership. On the other hand, 41.3% said that it added significant or moderate value and 25.8% said that it had limited value. Another 19.2% said they did not have enough information to form an opinion. The aforementioned comments are not intended to deny that OASW may have legitimate concerns about CASW. There may, indeed, be improvements that CASW can make in order to promote social work nationally and govern equitably. However, the organizational review and action plan of CASW, as well as other related announcements, suggest that the national association has tried to respond to those concerns. We wish that OASW had shared that response with provincial members, rather than our having to obtain such documentation from CASW directly.

‘We are pleased, however, with the most recent communique of OASW (December 14), in
which it is stated that the provincial association is still participating in ‘deliberations about how CASW plans to restructure and move forward’. While the decision to suspend
membership may be ‘the culmination of unresolved issues despite a high level of investment of time, energy, and fiscal as well as human resources on the part of OASW, the concerns have not been widely shared with the members. Nor has there been much of an attempt to encourage dialogue and debate to date.

We very much hope, therefore, that you will accept our invitation to be our keynote speaker and discuss the OASW decision at our anniversary celebration and annual general
meeting in April. In addition, we encourage you and others in the association to join our blog on the OASW decision to suspend membership

(htttp://socialhealthpracticeottawa.wordpress.com/2009/11/14lplease-ioin-the-blos-dialoeueA. At the moment, most of the participants are opposed to the OASW decision but others undoubtedly have different opinions. It would be good to hear from you and them.

Best and sincere wishes.
Yours truly,

Barbara Merriam
President of OASW- EB
cc. Branch presidents
Joan MacKenzie Davies

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