Physiotherapy staff in Northern Ireland have voted to strike in a dispute over pay.
Members of the Chartered Society of Physiotherapy (CSP) working for Health and Social Care Northern Ireland (HSCNI) backed industrial action in their first ever ballot on pay and retention issues.
Almost nine out of 10 members voted yes to strike action on a turnout of 55%.
The society said health and social care staff in Northern Ireland were the lowest paid across the UK and were yet to be offered a pay uplift for 2023/24.
Claire Ronald, CSP senior negotiating officer for Northern Ireland, said: “The CSP has never held an industrial action ballot for pay in Northern Ireland and such a decision is always taken with great reluctance.
“However, physiotherapy staff in Northern Ireland have now very clearly indicated with their votes that lack of a fair pay deal is impacting on their ability to stay in work and provide care for patients in Northern Ireland.
“There is not a single physiotherapist or support worker who wants to strike – our members want to be at work, treating, rehabilitating, caring for their patients but the fact is they remain the lowest paid in the UK and the situation is not sustainable.
“The lack of a functioning executive makes the situation extremely difficult, but we must find a way to address this.
“The cost-of-living crisis is undoubtedly having an impact on our members, and it is critical that recruitment and retention of HSC staff in Northern Ireland is addressed.
“In any industrial action we will always ensure the safety of patients is safeguarded - but these strikes remain entirely avoidable.”