Freedom of association in the workplace

31 August 2017
Campus announcement

31 August 2017

Dear colleagues and students

The university’s employees have for many decades associated together to interact with their employer on matters of common concern. Before the arrival of recognised trade unions on campus, there was an umbrella Staff Association Committee (SAC) under which there were several constituent associations: for academics, for lecturers, for technical officers, for administrative and library staff, for workers and so on. Each of these associations was represented on the SAC.

After the resurgence of progressive unionism in the early 1970s, and in various evolutionary stages, three trade unions ultimately took the place of the various related associations. The university has recognised these various employee formations at every stage, and over the years has negotiated conditions of service and remuneration with unions representing a majority in each of three separate bargaining units.

In recent times, many challenges have arisen in broader society and in the workplace. At UCT, the insourcing exercise in the last half of 2016 has had a significant impact on the employment landscape at the university. New unions have sought, and have been given, a degree of organisational recognition by UCT, while existing unions have also continued to organise and be recognised.

At this time it is important for UCT to reaffirm its approach, which is now enshrined in sections 18 (freedom of association) and 23 (labour relations) of the South African Bill of Rights, that all employees have the right to join any trade union of their choice and to participate in the activities and programmes of that union, and equally that no employee is obliged to join a trade union.

All who work at UCT are encouraged – indeed obliged – to respect these rights.


Professor Hugh Corder
Acting Deputy Vice-Chancellor

Read previous communications:

Creative Commons License This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.

Please view the republishing articles page for more information.