As schools begin to bleed staff, fed up with the malfunctioning Novopay payroll system, secondary teachers are readying for legal action.
A survey of principals suggested as many 50 staff may have resigned since Novopay was introduced in August last year.
The number of affected schools is at 96 percent, up from 86 percent in October, and more than half of all schools had to dip into their own funds to pay staff in the last pay round.
Post Primary Teachers Association president Angela Roberts told Firstline this morning Novopay is a "huge disaster" and it's time for legal action.
"We've been very, very patient," says Ms Roberts. "I think the entire sector's taken a very professional approach for nearly six months, and the last two pay periods have caused significant extra stress for the start of the school year, and things have really got to crisis point."
She says the Government has promised inquiries into Novopay and support packages for schools, but they're yet to see anything on the front line.
"There has been lots of talk about supporting schools, but we have yet to see anything get dropped into a school to support the teachers and the support staff and principals, and the boards, to survive this."
Ms Roberts says they're not yet sure who they'll be asking to pay up, but it is already costing the taxpayer.
"People talk about the taxpayer fronting this – they're already fronting this. Schools are paying out substantial amounts of money to have extra staff hours. Dozens and dozens of hours can be spent on trying to sort payroll every fortnight.
"The stress and the distraction that is caused by this is not only harmful to teachers' health and staff's health, but actually they're not talking about the teaching, learning and lifting achievement that [Education Minister Hekia] Parata is wanting us all to focus on – they're talking about whether or not they can make their mortgage payments."
The PPTA is currently taking witness statements and discussing potential actions with their lawyers. But in the meantime, Ms Roberts just wants the Government to do something – now.
"There are executive officers walking off the job all over the country, and the implication for that is you've got principals and senior managers stepping into the breach because they are the only other people with a reasonable amount of expertise to deal with this. It's crisis point, and I want someone in Cabinet to find some sense of urgency to make this package drop into schools.
"I can't see why they can't do something today. They've known about this problem for a long time."
A 3 News poll showed 59 percent of voters want Ms Parata sacked as Education Minister. Only a quarter want her to stay.
Novopay's creators Talent2 rolled out a software update last weekend. More updates are due in March and April.