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Teachers among targets for new unions with anti-mandate links

Teachers, nurses and doctors are being recruited by new unions with backing from anti-mandate figures like Voices for Freedom.

Teachers are being targeted in a recruitment drive by new union the Teachers’ Professional Association of New Zealand (TPANZ) which has affiliations to the anti-vaccine community in New Zealand and Australia.  

TPANZ is one of three unions, including the Nurses Professional Association of New Zealand (NPANZ) and the New Zealand Medical Professional Society (NZMPS) which have recently incorporated as registered unions in New Zealand. TPANZ is officially registered as NZ Teachers’ United Incorporated.  

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The unions all have links to the Red Unions of Australia, which have been reported by the Sydney Morning Herald as “’fake unions’… capitalising on anti-vaccination fears to recruit doctors, teachers and nurses and exploit dissent within the labour movement about mandatory vaccinations.” 

Anti-vaccine figures are behind new unions for teachers. Image: AdobeStock by lesterman

The Australian unions were criticised by Australian Council of Trade Unions secretary as amounting to “an LNP-sponsored [Liberal and National Party of Australia] anti-vaccination campaign”.  

Their New Zealand equivalents, TPANZ, NPANZ and NZMPS, all have leaders that received media attention during the pandemic for refusing vaccinations and/or anti-vaccine and anti-mandate campaigning.  

TPANZ’s preside, Rachael Mortimer, refused the vaccine in 2021 and spoke out against the mandates stating “it’s basically 15 years of a career down the drain… I feel this choice has been completely taken away from me.”  

Newshub reported Mortimer was also at the Parliament protests and holds views that the Covid-19 vaccine was “experimental”.  

Chris Abercrombie, President of the Post-Primary Teachers Assocation (PPTA) said that they were aware of TPANZ but weren’t sure what they were trying to achieve as they seemed to be “mostly motivated by their opposition to the Covid vaccine mandates [and] it does feel like the horse has bolted a little bit.”  

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Chris Dekker, the secretary for TPANZ, has said that anti-mandate concerns aren’t the “primary motivator” of the organisation, but are “a symptom of us not taking a moral stand on who we chose to represent.” 

Abercrombie also commented that the constitution of TPANZ seemed to be lifted from the Australian context, which raised questions of how effectively the unions could speak to local issues.  

TPANZ stated that it was their goal to commence negotiations with the Ministry of Education and private employers “as soon as possible”. 

Dekker also said that TPANZ is established to provide “affordable representation to teachers who did not want to provide in-kind or financial support to political parties, via their union dues”. He also said their constitution was “entirely relevant to New Zealand teachers”. 

TPANZ said they’ve visited a “handful” of schools so far and “intend to visit many more to discuss union business, as is our right as a registered union.”

Abercrombie noted that the PPTA is also politically neutral and also does not make party donations. He also stated that he was worried people may join the unions expecting to get the same benefits and pay rewards as larger, more established unions. 

The PPTA has said they have not seen any impact on their membership from TPANZ although they were aware of school recruitment visits, which TPANZ are legally entitled to do as a registered union.  

Abercrombie stated “I just really hope people are thinking about it and aware of what they are joining.”  

Anna Welanyk, Hautū (Leader) Education Workforce at the Ministry of Education, said that they were “aware that NZ Teachers’ United Incorporated (the Teachers’ Professional Association of New Zealand) is a registered union” however no collective agreement bargaining has occurred and there are no contractual relationships between the two parties.  

Welanyk said that if TPANZ were to initiate bargaining, “we would engage with its representatives in line with our obligations under the Employment Relations Act.”  

Naomii Seah

Naomii Seah is a writer and journalist from Tāmaki Makaurau Auckland, Aotearoa New Zealand. She enjoys crochet, painting, and a coffee or two at the beach. Her work can be found at The Spinoff, The Pantograph Punch, Stuff, and of course, School News NZ.
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