The Academic and Professional Staff Association (APSA) of the Universities of South Africa is a registered trade union. We have been active on the campuses of Unisa as a trade union from our inception in 1991 (when the Teaching Staff Association became a union). The Teaching Staff Association first came into existence in 1947 and was eventually registered as a trade union when the current Labour Relations Act became effective in November 1995. APSA is an independent, a-political and autonomous union and is entirely self-funded. We are not affiliated to any political party or movement, and are not affiliated to any other union or union federation.
Our members enjoy the right to freedom of expression and association. We do however co-operate with other unions in the Higher Education Sector when it is in the best interest of our members and Unisa to do so. Our primary task is to help, support and protect our members. We accept and loudly proclaim that a university is not simply like any other workplace, as universities are academic institutions. Thus, our natural focus has always been and will remain to promote the interest of the academic sector. That means that we will approach general collective matters from an academic perspective where it is appropriate. That is not only a unique and different perspective, but at a university, a necessary one. One of the major changes is that previously (before 2006) our recognition agreement prevented us from representing non-academic employees and support staff. This was due to the dispensation that we inherited at the outset of APSAs first recognition as a registered trade union in 1995.
Despite this restriction, we have made the best of it, observing the letter of our agreement we then had with the University. Currently, the situation has changed. All substantive bargaining and negotiation takes place in the Unisa Bargaining Forum (UBF). The constitution of the UBF is framed in such a way that all recognised unions who participate in the UBF represent all employees, academic, professional and non-academic. Thus, when we engage with Unisa management, it will be with the new and additional responsibilities of representing professional, academic, non-academic and support staff members to the best of our ability. And ─ and here is where the blunt and direct becomes pertinent ─ APSA will maintain a basic guiding academic perspective. We will continue to operate from an academic horizon. After all, Unisa is a university, first and foremost! But a university is defined by all its employees.