FAQS - All About SWU

Am I automatically a member of the Social Workers Union?

No. Membership is fully optional. It is an opt-in process if you are a member of BASW.

Can I be a member of BASW and not a member of SWU?

Yes, and indeed you won’t be a member of SWU unless you actually opt-in to the union.

I am already a member of a trade union - can I be a member of SWU and a member of another union?

Yes. There is no exclusivity clause in joining the Social Workers Union so members can, if they wish, retain their current membership of another union or join a different union in the future.

Can I join The Social Workers Union now?

Yes, Click Here to find out more.

Can the Social Workers Union represent me and my colleagues in local authority pay and conditions bargaining?

SWU is fully able to represent social workers with whatever individual issues or concerns they have - from grievance hearings to informal discussions with managers. Securing the right to negotiate on behalf of the wider social work workforce, taking part in pay and conditions talks, is a separate matter.

SWU continues to work closely with the TUC and individual trade unions on this issue. SWU is clear that the issue of pay and conditions is an area that it will voice its opinions on, regardless of its formal status with individual employers.

SWU is now a member of General Federation of Trade Unions, GFTU. The specialist social work knowledge of our staff gives us a unique contribution in our work with employers on the wide range of employment issues. This is why we are encouraging all social workers to join BASW and SWU.

Why did BASW set up a trade union arm?

Firstly, and most importantly, because it is what our members want - they voted for it at our May 2011 AGM. Crucially, with their union status SWU officers cannot now be prevented from representing members in employment issues.
The establishment of the Social Workers Union (SWU) means we offer advice and representation as well as industrial relations services. The Social Workers Union provides a service tailored specifically towards the needs of social workers, setting it apart from any other trade union. Our representatives are all social workers - they have been where you are; they understand the challenges you face on a daily basis, they understand your registration requirements, they know that sometimes what an employer asks you to do is inconsistent with that, and that this puts you under enormous pressure. Our representatives, unlike many other union representatives, speak as social workers for social workers.

Will the Social Workers Union become a member of the TUC?

SWU is now affiliated to the GFTU and so members are now able to take advantage of the additional benefits provided by such membership. In particular you can benefit from the training available from the GFTU.

SWU has continued to grow at a remarkable rate over the last four years and as at July 2015 had over 11,000 members; it is therefore one of the fastest growing trade unions despite the fact that trade union membership generally is in decline. SWU has applied for full membership of the TUC and continues to hold ongoing discussions with them highlighting the success of the union and what it can bring to the wider trade union movement.

I only joined BASW to be a member of a professional association rather than a trade union - does SWU undermine the culture of the organisation?

SWU is a separate organisation, run through agreement with BASW, aimed at strengthening the service we offer to members, not detracting from it.The ability of BASW members being able to join SWU is an additional benefit of membership and there are no issues whatsoever if you wish not to opt-in to membership of SWU. However, in these challenging times our members need the best protection possible. We believe that together, BASW and SWU provide the best protection and advice for social workers, from social workers.

What does being a member of SWU entail?

For the most part membership is all about the Social Workers Union supporting you in your work. However, understanding the rules of membership, and adhering to them, is important, so all new joiners should make sure they read them here.

What is the situation with BASW’s Advice & Representation Service?

The A&R Service continues to offer employment and professional advice services and representation services at regulatory councils across the UK to members of BASW (whether you opt-in to membership of the union or not). However, the additional membership of SWU also offers a guarantee of representation at any internal employment related hearings.

Why has SWU started charging an additional fee?

As a Trade Union, SWU has a number of legal obligations such as conducting a secret ballot for the election of the General Secretary, the President and the National Executive. These ballots have to be monitored by an independent election scrutineer. The cost of conducting elections can be considerable and now that it is growing in size SWU needs to meet these costs. SWU is a member led organisation and its members need to be able to help to shape the union and its policies, holding an Annual General Meeting and/or a conference costs money - the additional fee will enable SWU to facilitate more membership involvement in these events. There is other work that SWU hopes to do in the future - if SWU’s members feel strongly about an issue and want to participate in a ballot for some form of industrial action, SWU needs to have the funds to conduct such a ballot - as SWU grows in numbers and strength its ability to do this kind of activity will increase and it needs to have money to make these activities possible.

I see that the Social Workers Union will now be under a separate charge. Can you please confirm for me whether the Advice and Representation Service will remain part of BASW membership alone or if it is only available for those who also pay to join the union?

From October 1st 2015 a separate £20 annual fee (£1.66 per month) and for students and unwaged people £10 (83p per month) will apply to BASW members or new joiners who opt into the Social Workers Union (SWU).

Only a trade union can guarantee representation in hearings before an employer and therefore, only those members that opt into SWU, or are members of another trade union, can be guaranteed representation in such hearings. We believe that together, BASW and SWU provide the best protection and advice for social workers, from social workers. As a professional association BASW is not able to offer the same guarantee of representation in a hearing before an employer that a union can offer and this is one of the reasons why BASW formed SWU and is encouraging its members to retain their membership of SWU or join it if they are not already members. BASW members who decide not to opt into the Union will still receive telephone advice and representation before the relevant regulator in your Nation but representation in a workplace hearing cannot be guaranteed and therefore, if you do not opt into SWU you are taking a risk that you may not secure representation in a hearing before your employer where your employment may be in jeopardy should you be required to attend such a hearing."

I am a retired member and not in work - what benefits do I get from joining SWU?

SWU has achieved much over the past four years and we are focused on growing and strengthening the union. As a retired member, it is unlikely you will require services from our Advice and Representation Team. However, by remaining in SWU membership and paying £10 for this year, you will be helping us to build a strong union and support your social worker colleagues who continue to provide vital services despite the difficult circumstances they are enduring due to budget restraints and the blame culture many of our members report to us. Therefore, we hope that you and other retired members do decide to retain your membership of SWU.

I am an independent social worker and do not work in a workplace - what benefits do I get from joining SWU?

SWU has achieved much over the past four years and we are focused on growing and strengthening the union. As an independent social worker who does not work in a workplace it is unlikely you will require representation in a hearing before an employer and therefore, this benefit may not offer much to you. However, by remaining in SWU membership and paying £20 for this year, you will be helping us to build a strong union and support your social worker colleagues who continue to provide vital services despite the difficult circumstances they are enduring due to budget restraints and the blame culture many of our members report to us. Therefore, we hope that you and other independents do decide to retain your membership of SWU.

I am a student - what benefits do I get in paying the additional £10 to join SWU?

Students will be entitled to representation from BASW, as long as your university lets us represent you - this is most commonly about placement issues. As soon as you are in employment as a social worker, assuming you have joined SWU at least three months prior to getting a job as a social worker, you will have the benefit of the right to be represented if your employer asks you to attend a hearing. In our experience, you are particularly vulnerable when you are a newly qualified social worker. As a student member of SWU, you will benefit from the knowledge that you are part of the wider collective voice of the trade union movement. In addition, you are entitled to attend training courses provided by the General Federation of Trade Unions.

How soon can I access SWU services after I join SWU?

Under SWU's rules you will not usually be entitled to representation on a matter that occurred before your membership commenced or on any matter that occurs in the first three months of membership.

Can I just join SWU without joining BASW?

SWU’s rules allow any social worker to join but there is a different fee for those that want to join who are not BASW members, if you want further information on fees for non BASW members please call 0121 622 3911.