THE BRONX - Bronx Catholic high school teachers may soon walk off the job in a strike over salary, pension and health benefits.

Members of the Lay Teachers Association union, which represents non-clerical staff of the Archdiocese of New York, voted Tuesday to strike within 10 days if the archdiocese doesn?t come up with a better contract.

The union is calling for top educators to earn $60,000. It also wants better health benefits and pensions. The average salary is currently in the $40,000 range.

The archdiocese and union have been in contract talks since the end of August. The union says salary is the biggest flaw in the proposed contract. The archdiocese claims it is offering a 17 to 19 percent increase and step raises for teachers, which are based on degrees and experience.

Schools such as Cardinal Hayes Memorial and Cardinal Spellman high schools would be affected. Church officials maintain it would be business as usual if instructors take to picket lines.

Teachers went on strike for 17 days in 2001. Many teachers say they don?t want to see any disruption in school, but they feel a strike is the only way they can get a reasonable offer.