You won’t believe how much it costs to join this Social Workers Union

You won’t believe how much it costs to join this Social Workers Union

Over the years I’ve been a Social Worker I’ve heard lots of complaints about Social Work organisations and unions. They usually follow one of these themes:

“They sit on the fence too much”

“They never do anything for us front line Social Workers”

“They don’t give value for money”

“Their training days are always too far away”

“They’re too cosy with the Government”

“It doesn’t feel like they give Social Workers a voice”

Whilst I can see some validity in all of these points, I’ve mostly been of the view that these organisations are supposed to be ‘our’ organisations and you can change things for the better by getting involved. That’s the reason why I’ve been a member of Unison and BASW in the past, in the hope that my involvement can help form part of a larger collective voice to bring about positive change for Social Workers like me and you.

Sadly, for reasons I’d rather not go into, I felt I had to leave BASW in March this year due to some behaviour from two senior figures in the organisation that left me feeling really hurt. I was hoping that these issues may be resolved and I could continue doing what I could to help the organisation (I had recently taken a day off work to speak at a student event, had become a local branch committee member and was being sponsored by BASW for my upcoming book project).

A fellow Social Worker (who I’d never met before) got in touch with me to say she’d seen this treatment I’d received and had felt moved to complain about how I was being hurt. She latterly shared the response she got, feeling that the tepid and blasé reaction to her concerns showed that they were not being taken seriously. Realising my position as a member was untenable, I had to leave.

Which left me with no membership of a professional body and feeling a little bit isolated.

So last month I enquired about joining The Social Workers Union

Four weeks later I got this response to my membership query:

If you would like to join SWU without being a member of BASW the charge for admission is £269.60 plus an annual subscription of £269.60, which equates to £539.20 per year for SWU membership.

Yes, you read that correctly, £539.20 a year

It goes on…

Unlike BASW, SWU is not able to provide for monthly payments as it does not have direct debit facilities therefore if you would like to join SWU only, you would need to pay a one off payment of £539.20 by cheque for your first year of membership

£539.20 upfront to join The Social Workers Union

I don’t know about you guys, but there’s simply no way I could afford to pay £539.20 upfront for the security of Union membership.

My bank balance after paying the bills this month is £106.13.

To be able to afford this union membership I’d have to take out a loan or ask to borrow money from family members.

£539 is more than I pay for my car insurance a year.

£539 is 58% of the average global monthly salary.

Full-time Local Authority Social Work wages have stagnated for the past 7 years and recent news stories claim that most public sector workers have faced a ‘real term’ pay decrease of £2000 over the past decade.

A few months ago I ran a story from a Social Worker who was struggling to make ends meet on her Social Workers wage and worried about being able to put fuel in her car. How can someone like her afford to pay £539 upfront to join the Social Workers Union?

If I can’t find £539 upfront to pay for Union membership then how many people can?

At a time when our profession is facing great changes, the world is becoming more unfair and the political landscape is increasingly volatile, we need to be able to work together as a profession more than ever. Charging this month to join a union means that all but the richest people will be priced out of having collective support.

I’m hoping that bringing attention to this issue will help the Social Workers Union change their policy and introduce a price point that all Social Workers can afford. Union membership should be accessible to everyone and a sliding scale where these with the broadest shoulders pay more.


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