During these times of quarantine and pandemic, people often take the opportunity to reflect. How much toilet paper does the average person use in a month? Should I change out of my pajamas before noon? And most importantly... what is APSA?
In previous communications, I've described APSA's mission of educating, negotiating and advocating for our members. That's what we do, but it only partially explains who (or what) we are. More recently, APSA sent out a membership survey (thanks to all who responded — surveys like this help to give the Board and APSA staff information and direction). Some members who answered that survey weren't sure what APSA was or didn't think we're independent of the University (we are).
When people ask me what APSA is, I like to respond with, "We're somewhere between a union like CUPE and a professional organization like the BC Medical Association." If I am feeling particularly Canadian, I define us by what we are NOT — we're not an arm, or a division, or a department of SFU. We are a member-driven society, which means the President (me), the Board, our Executive Director (Andrew), all report to you, the members.
So, what exactly does that all mean?
Not being a union is pretty easy to describe — we don't have a right to strike, and we don't have a collective agreement. We're not like the BC Medical Association (or Bar Association, or Professional Engineer Association) in that we don't provide a professional designation to our members.
We are more like a "member benefit professional association" — as explained best by the HR Professional Association of Ontario. Member benefit organizations:
- Exist primarily to create value for their members.
- Offer various products and services to members.
- Host networking and events.
- Advocate on behalf of the members.
- Do not have a statutory mandate and obligation to promote and protect the public interest.
Our founding document is our constitution, which sets out the five purposes of our organization. Many people will also look to our AD10 policies and our Basic Agreement. Together these latter two documents act for us in a similar (but not identical) way that a collective agreement may act for a union. One important thing to be aware of is how these documents interact — the Basic Agreement and AD10 policies do not define who we are. We need to be careful not to read parts of them out of context — our role and responsibilities as a society are paramount.
So, to sum up, who is APSA?
- We are a society under the BC Societies Act. As such, we are not part of SFU, and our responsibilities are laid out in our constitution.
- We are not a union, although we do negotiate and advocate for workplace improvements (monetary and non-monetary) for our members.
- Unlike other professional associations, we do not grant designations, regulate, or accredit our members.
- We are a "member benefit professional association" with the role of creating value (through negotiation, advocacy and education) for our members.
- Member benefit is what we do — the Societies Act (and Labour Law) are the rules we follow while doing it.