A ballot of the teachers, who belong to four unions in the Northern Ireland Teachers' Council - the Association of Teachers and Lecturers, the Irish National Teachers Organisation (INTO), the NASUWT, and the Ulster Teachers'
Union (UTU) - found firm support for their unions' recommendations for industrial action, with the two biggest, the NASUWT and INTO, also endorsing strike action.
The ballot was held after the Department of Education told the unions it could not afford to backdate a settlement of 1,060 each from September 2002, although it may be able to pay the money from last September - but gave no guarantee of this.
Ray Calvin, UTU general secretary, said, 'We are now at a crossroads and need some indication that we could reach a peaceful conclusion to the matters between us and the management side of the teachers' negotiating committee.' He pointed out that teachers in England were paid the extra money from 2002 and that until last year, teachers in Northern Ireland had 'always got what their English colleagues were paid'.
Union members have been asked to boycott all statutory assessment tests at Key Stages 1 to 3. They have also been told to be available to teach in primary schools for 25 hours a week and not to undertake any duties during non-teaching time.
The UTU, which is the only teachers' union based in Northern Ireland and represents about 6,450 members in nursery, primary, secondary and special schools, said that it was clear that 'teachers' unions here cannot accept a situation where Northern Ireland teachers lose over 1,000 a year'.
The Department for Education was unavailable for comment.