Kate Powers responds to the eastern branch’s letter.
This is to acknowledge receipt of your letter of January 4, 2011 pertaining to OASW’s decision to suspend membership in CASW for one year. Thank you for communicating your thoughts and concerns on behalf of the Eastern Board.
The OASW has received input and comments from across the province, some of it in support of the decision while others have raised questions about the decision, the impact on professional liability insurance, and our role with national and international social work organizations. OASW has responded to those who have communicated their concerns individually and has provided communiqués to update our members about the process of consultation and information gathering that have led to this decision.
Throughout, the OASW Board of Directors asked probing questions to understand and clarify the issues that have prevailed. At the Board of Directors meeting at the end of November 2010, the Board was advised of input received by OASW to the decision to suspend membership in CASW. Following further exploration and discussion, the Board unanimously elected to affirm the decision to suspend membership for one year with the intent to keep the door open for ongoing communication with CASW and to monitor the execution of the proposed Work Plan which you referenced in your letter.
This decision was made with broad consultation, considerable deliberation and substantial information gathering, using the results of the OASW survey in 2008 as well as communication with branch boards and/or presidents via the Association and via Regional Directors. Ontario was actively present and participated in CASW sub-committees and working groups to address the persistent focus on the fee structure, the intent of which was to increase revenues for CASW operations. OASW participated in the selection process for the organizational review consultants, the Agora Group, consultations and focus groups initiated by the review consultants. In the near future, a follow-up to the survey taken in 2008 will be distributed.
CASW continues to propose fee options to member organizations. In its most recent proposal CASW has elected to differentiate membership fees based on the function of the member organization, i.e., member organizations with dual functions (that of a regulator and association) are provided a discounted rate in the basic fee, whereas those who have one function (that of association) do not. Use of this criterion to differentiate membership fees is new and not represented in either the By-Laws or the Appendix to the current Membership Agreement. The Agreement identifies payment of fees based on ‘the agreed-upon fee formula’. This, of course, is the central issue around which, currently, there is not agreement. It is of considerable interest that the two member organizations, who contribute the largest fees (80% – namely Alberta and Ontario), have elected to terminate and suspend membership at this time. The three-year Membership Agreement, which expired in 2009, requires renewal and revision to incorporate progressive goals and objectives that articulate clear deliverables of the national association.
Ontario provides the second largest contribution to the CASW. Over the past decade, OASW has contributed over $1.3 million to CASW. Over the past few years, CASW has reduced its activities impacting the production of publications, research and policy papers, the national conference, and an update of their website. This reduction in activities is of concern when assessing value for membership, and a catalyst for escalating concerns pertaining to the fee increase discussion that has persisted since 2006. Some of the recently proposed revisions to the fee structure impact Ontario nominally. To date, there has not been sufficient dialogue or recognition that a new and more progressive approach is needed to give strength to a national voice that advances the social work profession while promoting social justice. Advancing the best interest of the profession to strengthen the understanding and awareness of the impact of social work on our communities is equally important to that of advocating for social justice and equity.
I appreciate your invitation to speak at the Eastern Branch AGM in April 2011. I understand that you wish a keynote address to speak to the reasons for the decision. These have been provided on many occasions through individual responses to those who have written to express their concerns, and broadly through communiqués to our members. Messages have been consistent with respect to both the process and the decision by the Board. An offer was proffered to Boards to connect to discuss any new concerns that have emerged. At this time, little more can be said to those who remain committed to an opposing view. Though consensus is preferred, dissenting views and opinions are part of the democratic process.
OASW will continue to communicate to members and participate in CASW through March 31st, 2011, following which we will keep the lines of communication open to continue to dialogue through implementation of the CASW Work Plan. We remain optimistic that following recruitment of an Executive Director and development of a strategic plan, that a clearer vision for the national federation will emerge; one that more clearly articulates the criteria for membership and assessment of fees; one that identifies a commitment to advancing both the profession as well as the values that are foundational to social work practice.
Thank you, again, for taking the time to convey your opinions, thoughts and concerns. I wish Eastern Branch a meaningful and success AGM in April.
Kate Power, MSW, RSW
President, OASW Board of Directors
Sent via email: January 27.11
letter Dated January 10, 2011