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.

Our aim is to improve job security on a broad basis through existing procedures. We also strive to improve existing benefits and the general working environment. We are committed to improving the working conditions of academic as well as non-academic employees through a collective effort. Naturally, since we represent academic, research and support staff at Unisa, our aim also includes improving the standard of education within Unisa. For APSA to achieve this, participation in the Unisa Bargaining Forum (UBF) is of the utmost importance, since this is where conditions of employment, working conditions and general policies regarding this institution and its employees are discussed and decided.
APSA has been involved in a lengthy struggle to; once again, obtain recognition at UNISA; which was achieved on the 3rd of March 2010. (Please see our Recognition and Procedural Agreement). As you may or may not be aware, APSA has been active on the Unisa campuses since 1995, and has been recognised and also de-recognised a couple of times. The reasons for this are complex. Should you wish a detailed explanation, feel free to contact our offices.
During our time in the cold, many things happened that impacted on how we considered our own position as a union. Just to refresh your memory, you will recall that shortly after APSA was de-recognised Unisa revoked the recognition of our three sororal unions, namely Nutesa, Saptu and Solidarity. This has left the non-academic employees like the academic employees, without a union except, of course, Nehawu. During that time, the Union Council of APSA spent many hours in consultation, in meetings and tribunals, at the CCMA and in court representing or supporting non-academic employees. Concern for their privacy prevents us from listing the fellow employees we have helped; some of them rather ‘senior’. Thus, APSA is firmly resolved to assist non-academic employees wherever we can. It is possibly not that well known, but APSA has always had non-academic employees as members. It is also true that they were a rather small proportion of the membership, and the labour dispensation prevailing at Unisa before prevented us from representing our non-academic members more fully. However, much has changed. Unisa insists that all recognised unions participate as equals in representing all employees – and indeed the constitution of the Unisa Bargaining Forum makes it very clear that is the only interpretation that can prevail. Thus, the door has been opened for APSA to openly, overtly and explicitly represent non-academic employees at Unisa. However, I must be forthright in stating that APSA will never act against the interest of academic employees. That is an article of faith that has sustained us, and it is our opinion that it is because we were steadfast in insisting on that, that we have successfully managed to regain our recognition at Unisa once again!