Classroom assistants across Northern Ireland will begin industrial action by the end of the month if a deal cannot be brokered with the Department of Education, it has been warned.
Schools across Northern Ireland are now facing widespread disruption after almost 94% of members who cast their vote in the Nipsa ballot said they are in favour of industrial action - the latest twist in the longest ever running pay dispute in the province.
The first planned strike is to last for one day and is due to take place on September 26, with a major rally planned to take place in Belfast on the same day.
If no resolution is found, classroom assistants will walk out for a three-day period which begins on October 2, with all-out strike action commencing on October 8.
A source from Nipsa last night said that members are willing to "stay out for as long as it takes, 10 years even, to get a satisfactory result" .
Responding to the planned walkout by classroom assistants, a spokesman from the Department of Education said: "The Department of Education regrets the decision of classroom assistants to take strike action, which may disrupt the education of some children."
Out of the 1,086 ballot papers returned, only 72 members voted against industrial action, with 1,014 members voting in favour of the proposed strikes.
The result was considered by Nipsa's Education and Library Board Panel yesterday and the decision was taken to respond to the ballot result by calling on classroom assistant members employed by the five Education and Library Boards to take part in a period of major strike action.
Up to 7,000 school staff remain caught up in the 12-year battle over pay. Nipsa has pledged its intention to secure a "fair deal" for members, who have waited more than a decade for a job evaluation exercise to be completed.