- The debate regarding trade unions is one that is constantly making headlines in South Africa. Why are unions so important in South Africa, and also why at Unisa, specifically? At Unisa, Nehawu was the trailblazer and we as academic employees had to wait until the new democracy to establish our own union. For this foresightedness APSA salutes Nehawu. It is a well known fact that before 1995, academic employees were excluded from joining unions. The reason for the existence of unions is due to the fact that work and employment forms such a large part of our existence. Unionism is premised on the idea that all employees have rights which have to be respected and protected. The pre-amble of the Labour Relations Act (LRA) goes much further.
It clearly states that employee participation in management decisions must be promoted. Bear in mind, though, employees also have obligations, responsibilities and duties. Since unionism implies a collective of employees bound by common interests ─ surely one of those responsibilities is to join a union, so that your voice can be heard through your union? Due to unionism, you are protected and can enjoy your rights in as safe an environment as possible. Clearly, to allow maximisation of the protection of employees a union needs many active and participative members. Because Unisa has failed to unite its employees, there exists much fear and insecurity. The recent, very public and damaging squabbles between Nehawu ─ who has to shoulder the burden of unionism single handedly ─ and the university management, has severely tarnished the very credibility of the labour relations dispensation at Unisa. The main reason why we need another strong union is to counter act these kinds of activities.
To simplify; the role of a union can literally be described as that of being a ‘watch dog’. This implies in general the guarding of the hard won rights of all employees (and not to casually sign them away), to offer constructive alternatives, to provide a safe channel for its members to participate in the life of the institution and more. Bear in mind that this role also extends to other unions ─ unions watch one another. Which is why ─ for effective unionism ─ any workplace requires more than one union. We are aware that our membership fees are higher than the other unions on campus. But, we can claim a unique and proud record in fighting for the interests of our members to the utmost of our ability and our financial capacity.
- APSA Uni-SA, in all its actions, is guided by its constitution. Therefore, we seek to organise and contribute to orderly and professional labour relations at institutions of higher learning, in all its aspects. What is needed most, and where APSA Uni-SA seeks to particularly contribute, is it to help establish, develop and nurture a sense of participation and ownership among all employees in the life of the institution. We are deeply concerned that there is real sense of alienation among employees, and we recognise that it is very detrimental, and indeed potentially fatal for any institution to leave this matter unattended. We wish to encourage vibrant academic engagement and to contribute to an improved climate for free and open critical debate, free from fear and victimisation.
The rule of law.
- To maintain and develop an efficient administrative infrastructure in providing a legitimate service to members.
- To establish and maintain a relationship with management based on respect and trust.
- APSA Uni-SA will appose all attempts at co-option.
- Establishing and maintaining APSA Uni-SA on the campus by representing all employees from the perspective that UNISA Uni-SA is a university for all its employees and students.
- Establish and maintain a cordial, non-belligerent and non-competitive relationship with other labour groups, based on mutual respect and informed cooperation.
- Representing the interest of all employees in the UBF.
- Be of service to the University and Higher Education community, both locally and nationally.