Up to 6,000 Ministry of Defence (MoD) logistics workers will strike next week over a “kick in the teeth” pay offer.
The action will come as a blow to the government as prime minister Tony Blair prepares to announce a timetable for the withdrawal of UK troops from Iraq today.
Specialists, managers and technical support staff at the professionals’ union Prospect voted 61% to 39% in favour of the strike on Wednesday 28 February.
They are protesting against a two-year pay offer worth 2.5% for most staff for 2006 and 2007 – due to come into effect on the day of the strike.
Prospect national secretary Steve Jary said: “This offer is a kick in the teeth for years of commitment by dedicated staff, without whom the front line simply could not function.
“The action is not an attempt to bring government to its knees, it is a demonstration of resolve that government must value its most skilled staff if it wants decent logistical support for the Armed Forces.”
Safety-critical and essential operational work will be exempt from the action. Prospect has written to defence secretary Des Browne to press for urgent talks on pay, and to confirm which members should be exempt from the strike action.
The pay offer affects 9,000 professional staff covered by the central MoD pay agreement, but not staff in separate bargaining units such as the Met Office.
Prospect represents staff who provide the Armed Services with scientific and telecommunications skills; supervise the repair and refurbishment of military and transport equipment; carry out research and development; and oversee £14bn of procurement contracts with the private sector.
Blair is expected to make a statement to MPs in the House of Commons today about the 7,200 British troops serving in Iraq. It is thought he will say 1,500 troops are expected to return home in months, with 3,000 withdrawn by Christmas.