Thousands of Northern Ireland's civil servants are set to take strike action at the end of this month if a dispute over an "unacceptable" pay increase remains unsolved.
Employees across the Civil Service have had a 1.25% pay rise imposed, but a leading trade union has said that equates to a fall in real wages at a time when the Civil Service has had to take on extra responsibility in the absence of a government at Stormont.
Nipsa, the largest public sector trade union in Northern Ireland, has notified the NICS that strike action by its members will begin on Friday.
The Nipsa Civil Service Group has a membership of more than 16,700 employees covering civil servants and the staff of public bodies employed on Civil Service terms and conditions. "In addition, other action short of a strike is to take place on July 29," Alison Millar, Nipsa general secretary, confirmed yesterday.
"This is not a decision that Nipsa or our members have taken lightly.
"Members have however given a strong mandate for strike action with over 68% of members voting to support strike action and almost 87% of members voting to support action short of strike action." She added that there has been mounting anger among civil servants at what they see as being asked to do more work for a reduction in real salary.
"The industrial action covers both a totally unacceptable imposed pay increase of 1.25%, a pay cut in real terms when inflation is running in excess of 2%," she said.
"Members are angry that their terms and conditions are under constant threat and attack with members expected to take on more responsibility, with less opportunity and less pay.
"Our members are saying loud and clear - enough is enough.
"Since the collapse of the NI Assembly, civil servants have effectively kept the country running and what they have received in return is a significantly below inflation pay increase and ongoing attacks on their terms and conditions of employment.
"We notified the NICS formally on Thursday of the strike action and are awaiting a response. As a union we stand ready to engage in talks ahead of the planned action on July 26.
"Though if the strike action goes ahead, and it will as things stand, our executive will meet in the week following to consider further action."
As one of Northern Ireland's largest employers, the Northern Ireland Civil Service (NICS) employs more than 23,000 permanent staff across a wide range of disciplines and aspects of government.
As such, strike action could hit services including the payment of benefits and pensions, the staffing of prisons, vehicle testing and road maintenance.
The Northern Ireland Civil Service comprises all 10 government departments which have the responsibility of supporting the Assembly, the Executive and the institutions of government.
It works to develop and implement government policies and help deliver public services.
The government departments affected include the Department of Finance, and a spokesperson said: "The NI Civil Service is seeking to ensure essential services continue to be delivered during the planned industrial action which is being taken by Nipsa from July 26."