A united front of Western Bay primary and intermediate teachers and principals are seeking a ''seismic shift'' in pay rates.
''There is a crisis looming and a critical thing is that money is a factor to attract teachers into the profession,'' Bay of Plenty/Waiariki area council member for the New Zealand Educational Institute Barrie Wickens said.
Western Bay teachers and principals are taking part in national contract negotiations and teachers could strike for the first time since 1994 if the Ministry of Education did not come back with an acceptable offer later this month.
The NZEI was unhappy with the offer currently on the table of pay increases between 2.2 and 2.6 per cent a year for three years for the majority of teachers.
Wickens, the principal of Kaka Street Special School and New Zealand special schools representative on the NZEI, said the size of pay increases over the past 10 years meant the profession had fallen way behind.
Asked why strike action was so uncommon, he said most teachers were so busy teaching that they found it very difficult to get involved in this type of activity because they put the students first.
''It is like a family where adults put their children first and then they think about themselves.''
However the difference now was that a crisis was looming, signalled by a 40 per cent drop in enrolments in teacher training providers, he said.
''From a principal's perspective, we are hugely concerned about whether there will be enough teachers. There is a shortage now and it will just escalate.''
Wickens said the NZEI was looking for a ''pay jolt'' of 16 per cent.
''We have been undervalued for 10 years.''
Members also wanted to improve the conditions of work, particularly around the ministry providing classroom relief to help teachers deal with the complexities of the job. There were now significant numbers of students with challenging behaviours.
He said the NZEI wanted better pay for schools' special education needs co-ordinators and more specialised staff like the co-ordinators were needed.
Wickens believed the ministry would come back with another offer near the end of school holidays, which started tomorrow.
The union has signalled a national half-day strike on August 15 if the ministry did not come back with an acceptable offer.
The ministry's deputy secretary of early learning and student achievement, Ellen MacGregor-Reid, was disappointed NZEI had rejected the offers.
"We are disappointed escalated strike action is being discussed while negotiations are ongoing."
She said trained teachers' base salaries would increase by between 6.1 and 14.7 per cent over three years. This would see beginner teachers' pay increase to $50,280 a year, rising to $55,030 in 2020.
"The offer would also see increases for principals of between 6 to 11 per cent.''
She said negotiations with NZEI would continue over the coming weeks.