Catholic school teachers have overwhelmingly voted down a proposed new employment agreement as tensions heighten between the system's staff and their employers.
More than 87 per cent of staff in 11 Catholic dioceses across New South Wales and the ACT rejected the agreement in a ballot that was not endorsed by the furious Independent Education Union.
The dismissal of the proposed contract followed two half-day strikes held late November and early December.
"This is a very solid result and we hope that Catholic employers are listening to the voice of their employees," IEU NSW/ACT secretary John Quessy said.
The sticking point in negotiations has been the union and the Catholic Commission for Employment Relations' inability to settle on arbitration rights.
The IEU wants the new agreement to allow for the Fair Work Commission to be called upon to settle disputes, but the employer representative body has argued the umpire should only get involved when both parties agree to the intervention.
The rejection of the ballot has pushed back this year's pay rise of 2.5 per cent for Canberra's Catholic school teachers to 2018. At least three New South Wales dioceses have agreed to process back pay by the end of the month despite the ballot failing.
Catholic Commission for Employment Relations executive director Tony Farley said the body would meet with the Independent Education Union on Thursday the aim of coming to a resolution this week.
"Staff have been persuaded by the IEU's campaign about the disputes clause and associated issues around workload and we'll continue the negotiations with the benefit of that information," he said.
In a letter to staff, Canberra's Catholic Education Office director Ross Fox said a pay increase backdated to January 1 this year would be processed "as soon as possible in the new year" in recognition of staff's hard work.
"We will continue, through our bargaining representative CCER, to negotiate with the union to reach an agreement as soon as possible, so we can also give you the other benefits of a new agreement, including accelerated salary progression for teachers," he said.
"Given the holiday season is almost upon us, these discussions will run into the early part of 2018."