The Post Primary Teachers' Association is planning a revolt against the body that registers and disciplines teachers.
At its annual conference in Wellington this week, it is asking members to approve a programme of non-cooperation should the Government go ahead with changes to the organisation currently known as the Teachers' Council.
The changes will re-name the council as the Education Council, remove teachers' right to elect some of its members and introduce a code of conduct.
Hundreds of teachers and principals opposed the reforms when they were considered by the Education and Science Select Committee earlier this year, but the committee recommended only minor alterations.
The PPTA still hopes to convince the Government to back down - but if it doesn't, the union wants members' approval for a campaign. Possible measures include refusing to re-register as teachers, refusing to comply with the code of conduct, and taking industrial action.
The president of the PPTA, Angela Roberts, says it could result in quite a stoush.
"The opportunity to strengthen the Teachers' Council has been lost and so we've got a big fight ahead of us. This should be our professional body and we should have some say in what it does and where it goes."
Minister to select council
The loss of the right to elect members of the council has particularly angered teachers because they pay nearly all of the council's income through registration fees of $220 paid every three years.
They also point out that other regulatory bodies such as the Nursing Council and the Medical Council have equal numbers of places elected by the profession and selected by the relevant minister. But the Education Council will be entirely selected by the Education Minister.
Angela Roberts says teachers should be able to elect some of the council's members. "There will be teachers there, but they won't be our representatives and so it is a really bad way for this new body to start."
Ms Roberts says teachers are also unhappy with the code of conduct, which they fear will be prescriptive and inappropriate for a profession. She says they want to stick with a code of ethics.
The president of the Principals Federation, Philip Harding, says he is not surprised by the PPTA's plan, and the threat of refusing to re-register is particularly tough.
"You're not allowed to employ a teacher who is not registered for more than 10 days... If everybody in the PPTA said we're not going to register it would be a big problem because it wouldn't be feasible to close down every secondary school in the country yet that's what the law would demand."
But the president of the Secondary Principals Association, Tom Parsons, says the PPTA should wait and see who is appointed to the Education Council before it takes any action.
He says only about five percent of teachers vote for Teachers' Council members and he doubts there is much support among teachers for a boycott of the new organisation.
The other big teacher union is the Educational Institute, and its president Judith Nowotarski, says it still hopes to change the Government's mind. She says the NZEI will consider other action only if the Government goes ahead with its plan.