The National Union of Teachers is demanding that teachers be given a pay rise of at least 10 per cent, plus a bonus to compensate for below-inflation deals over the past three years.
Teachers should receive the 10 per cent deal or Pounds 3,000, whichever is greater, from September this year, the union has argued in evidence to the School Teachers' Review Body, the official pay body.
Its call comes despite the rapidly deteriorating economic situation that has led experts to predict negative inflation - as much as -1.9 per cent - by September.
The economic gloom has been unanimously rejected by the teaching unions as an argument for keeping pay rises down for school staff. All are lobbying for increases of more than 2.3 per cent this year.
The review body, which recommends what teachers should get paid, first suggested a rise of 2.3 per cent in a report last year. It is now re-examining that recommendation and will publish its findings by the summer.
In evidence submitted to the pay body last week, the unions said teachers had suffered a 6 per cent pay cut in real terms since 2005.
Christine Blower, acting general secretary of the NUT, said the Westminster government, which regulates pay and conditions for teachers throughout England and Wales, should not use the economic downturn as an "excuse" to consider a lower deal than 2.3 per cent.
The union has commissioned independent research which shows a growing gulf between the salaries on offer to people entering teaching compared with other graduate professions.
The NUT has 16,500 members in Wales.
David Evans, the union's secretary in Wales, said a 10 per cent rise was a realistic proposal to help teachers' salaries catch up with those working in other fields.
"What we are talking about here is a profession that isn't failing and that does a great job throughout the country," he said.
"This won't put teachers on a par with other professions, but it will ensure that professionals in probably the most important profession of all - from which all others stem - are properly rewarded."
Martin Ward, deputy general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, said a rise of more than 2.3 per cent was needed to attract the best-quality graduates into teaching.
"Teachers and their leaders are not paid as well as they should be and it's important that their salaries do not fall behind," he said.
"But this is not a year to seek a large real-terms rise. It will not play well with the public when many other people in different walks of life are losing their jobs and the public finances are under particularly severe pressure."
The NUT said it had no plans to ballot its members for strike action.
Last April, union members in England and Wales went on strike for the first time in 21 years, calling for an above-inflation pay rise of 4.1 per cent.
In Wales, it was estimated that 600 schools were forced to close as a result, and hundreds more cancelled lessons.