UNISON members in health and social services and in schools and education facilities throughout Northern Ireland have voted in favour of strike action.
Members in health and social services voted 81% in favour of strike action and 91.8% in favour of other industrial action.
Members in education voted 75% in favour of strike action and 84% in favour of other industrial action.
Unions across the public services are currently balloting for strike action in response to service cuts and job losses across the sector, and UNISON is the first to declare.
Pending approval from the union’s industrial action committee, preparations will now begin for strike action next month.
UNISON members across the services are also preparing for other forms of ongoing industrial action, including work to rule and selective action.
Regional secretary Patricia McKeown said: “Our members are in a determined mood to take on the worst service cuts and job loss proposals we have ever seen.
“It is intolerable for government and public sector employers to extract further cuts from services already straining under the pressure of seven years of budget cuts.
“We are hearing strong determination to take action from groups such as nurses who are working under increasing pressure and, in many cases, unsafe staffing levels.
“We are witnessing the same determination from homecare workers who have been forced on to zero-hours contracts, equally unsafe working practices and who are bedevilled by privatisation.
“In our schools, everyone from the crossing patrols to the school meals staff, the school caretaking and cleaning staff and classroom assistants have borne the brunt of massive cuts in the schools’ budgets and are now facing more.
“Aside from direct meetings with thousands of members over the past weeks, UNISON has also engaged with the public in more than 50 public meetings.
“We have explained why our members are being forced to take action. We have called for the public to stand with us. The response has been totally supportive.
“We anticipate that the amazing turnout of the local community in Downpatrick at the Love the Downe rally, which included local businesses, farmers, churches, clubs and voluntary organisations as well as health workers, to be repeated across Northern Ireland.
“This is the beginning of a fightback by public service workers and the public themselves.”
Members’ response to the ballot is as follows:
Number of members voting for strike action 2,621
Number of members voting against strike action 615
Number of members voting for action short of strike 2,894
Number of members voting against action short of strike 259
Number of members voting for strike action 569
Number of members voting against strike action 193
Number of members voting for action short of strike 612
Number of members voting against action short of strike 119