John Akker may sue his employers for wrongful dismissal after being suspended as general secretary of the National Association of Teachers in Further and Higher Education.
The NATFHE executive wants a decision today on whether Mr Akker will go quietly and accept early retirement or fight on. Mr Akker was unavailable for comment but sources said his solicitors had threatened legal action.
The Pounds 49,000-a-year general secretary is 54 and his five-year contract is due to expire in June 1999. He lost a vote of confidence by members of his national executive committee after they alleged he had failed to produce a report on the union's structure and finances.
Mr Akker was disciplined by his national executive after it was found that he had attended a meeting with other union leaders and Labour representatives to discuss how the unions might support the party in the run-up to the General Election. Natfhe members felt that since the union was not affiliated to Labour, the meeting could lead the union open to court action for misuse of funds.
A member of the national executive at the time said: "There is general consensus within the national executive committee that the continued employment of John Akker as general secretary is detrimental to the interest of the union."
Mr Akker has continued in his support of Labour. He has supported the union policy of strike action but spoke on three occasions to David Blunkett, then Shadow education secretary, about a deal with Labour to get wider public support for further education.
He has approached John Monks, general secretary of the TUC, Graham Lane, chair of the Local Government Association, and Roger Ward, chief executive of the Association of Colleges, to lead a high-level delegation to the new Secretary of State. They want to play down the strike image.
Already there is speculation about a possible successor to Mr Akker. Five names have surfaced: Jean Cook, chair of membership and organisation; Moira Carr, vice-president; Sian Maidment, chair of establishments; Paul Mackney, West Midlands regional officer, and Barry Lovejoy.