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National Tertiary Education Union

Brief History of the union

The National Union of Tertiary Employees of South Africa (NUTESA) was a trade union that grew out of the old staff associations that were found in the erstwhile technikons. The original name of the trade union was the National Union for Technikon Employees in South Africa, but the union had the foresight to change the work “technikon” to “tertiary” which meant that universities could also form NUTESA branches.  This name change was made long before certain technikons and universities merged or those that did not merge became universities of technology.

Trade unions were not permitted in technikons under the old dispensation, but the Labour Relations Act changed that, making it possible for technikon employees to form and join a trade union.

NUTESA was established in 1994.  The first president was Advocate Marion Fouche.  Other presidents included Mr Shakeel Ori from the old Durban Technikon and Mrs Thelma Louw from Technikon SA who held office for a record four terms.  Thereafter Prof Norman Kemp from NMMU served as national president. 

During the early days of NUTESA, a lot of work was done on writing a constitution.   

NUTESA and SAPTU joined forces

Shortly after the merger between PE Technikon (PET) and the University of Port Elizabeth (UPE), the new comprehensive university of NMMU came into existence.  The union from UPE, SAPTU, ceased to exist when they joined NUTESA.  Those day were difficult and uncertain days.  Establishing one united union made sense. 

NUTESA amalgamation with NTESU

Nationally, the NUTESA union amalgamated with NTESU at the end of 2009 to form NTEU (National Tertiary Education Union). You'll therefore notice that many of the older items refers to NUTESA. The new union, NTEU was registered on 25 Feb 2010.

Why was it necessary to create Trade unions?

The Trade Union movement has its origins in Great Britain.

It spread essentially due to the effects of the Industrial Revolution.

Trade Unions were formed for the following reasons: 

  • The move from privately owned factories to factories which were owned by a group of shareholders who were not involved in the day to day running of the company;
  • Wages were kept low so that the company was competitive, employees worked long hours in unsafe conditions and discipline was harsh.
  • Mass production and the division of labour meant that workers specialized in a certain task of the total job, as to increase productivity.
  • The worker, who previously worked for himself, was now forced to work for an employer and abide by the rules of the new workplace. Such a worker could no longer set his own pace and hours of work.
  • Previously skilled jobs were broken up into individual tasks and these were carried out by low-paid unskilled workers. Due to mass production work became boring and repetitive.
  • A conflict of interest arose between the industrialist, who wished to keep wages as low as possible and the worker, who was unable to improve his standard of living.
  • Labour became a commodity which could be bought or sold. Little consideration was given to the feelings of the worker.
  • Workers were dependent on their jobs. Low wages meant that they could not save. There was no social security and workers weren’t protected against abusive employers. This resulted in economic insecurity and dependence on the employer.