Real unions vs fake unions: Everything you need to know

The IEUA (NSW/ACT) is the only registered union for teachers and support staff in NSW and ACT non-government schools.

Registered unions, such as the IEUA, are not-for-profit, member-run organisations that comply with extensive legal and governance requirements.

A private business is not a union, red unions are not trade unions.

Real unions strive to improve your pay and workplace conditions day in, day out; year in, year out. Fake unions are not the same. It’s important to know the difference.

The IEU: A real union

  • The IEU is a registered union subject to the regulations of the Fair Work Act and oversight by the Registered Organisations Commission.
  • The IEU negotiates dozens of enterprise agreements each year that improve the salaries and conditions of staff in non-government schools, early childhood centres and English language colleges.
  • The IEU is democratic – members elect representatives to IEU Council; members elect union leadership.
  • The IEU publishes detailed, audited financial statements published on its website.
  • The IEU provides advice and advocacy on educational issues and teacher accreditation.
  • The IEU represents members in relation to workplace disputes and issues.
  • The IEU recovered $2.7 million on behalf of members in 2021, and every cent is returned to members.
  • The IEU is not, nor has it ever been, affiliated with, or paid dues to, any political party.
  • The IEU employs staff in offices who can assist and represent members in workplaces throughout NSW and the ACT.

Fake unions

  • The Red Unions (Teachers Professional Association of Australia; Nurses Professional Association of Australia; Professional Drivers Association of Australia) operate as businesses and are not subject to the same governance requirements as real unions.
  • Red Unions do not have right of entry to workplaces; they cannot be covered by collective agreements; they cannot initiate a dispute under a collective agreement; they cannot enforce any legal right under a collective agreement.
  • The Red Union lost a court case in Queensland in July 2021 that found them not to be a trade union. From the judgement: [116] I cannot accept the Applicant’s submission that the NPAQ is a ‘trade union’. It must follow therefore that the Applicant could not have engaged in “trade union activity” on NPAQ’s behalf within the meaning of the term in s 295 of the IR Act. Read the full judgement.
  • Red Union financial statements are not subject to the same governance or reporting requirements as real unions.
  • The Teachers Professional Association of Queensland/Australia does not have any staff employed in NSW or the ACT. There is no TPAA/TPAQ office anywhere in NSW or the ACT. Advice to members outside of Queensland on their website is: “If you need support we will be able to assist you via video conference or phone call as opposed to in person.”
  • On 27 October 2021 Red Unions were advertising for volunteers to contribute at least eight hours per week to respond to enquiries and requests.
  • The person behind the creation of Nurses Professional Association of Queensland (NPAQ – the first of the Red Union group), Graeme Haycroft, has extensive links to the Liberal National Party and a history of union busting. Read more.
  • TPAA/TPAQ claims to be a union run by teachers. Red Union Director Jack McGuire is a lawyer not a teacher and also works for NPAQ. It is unclear how or when teachers can vote for elected officials. Non-teaching staff who join are ‘affiliate’ members and cannot vote; IEU members who are school support staff have voting rights.
  • Red Unions purport to assist their members to block Public Health Orders – this legal action has been a notable failure.

Further reading