Staff working for Primark in Northern Ireland have voted for industrial action as the company attempts to impose a pay freeze for the second year in a row, union representatives say.

The Union of Shop, Distributive and Allied Workers (Usdaw), which represents around 85% of Primark's Northern Ireland workforce, yesterday (23 January) said members voted 93% in favour of taking industrial action.

It added that the result closely mirrors a consultative ballot held in December, where 95% of members voted to reject the company's pay freeze.

Usdaw representatives will meet next week to decide on the form and timing of any industrial action, which is likely to start some time in February. Usdaw has notified Primark of the ballot result and called for it to return to the negotiating table.

In 2010, Usdaw "reluctantly" agreed to accept a pay freeze following lengthy negotiations that involved the Labour Relations Agency. This year, Primark has again refused to offer staff any pay rise.

Primark recently reported sales rose some 16% over the Christmas period as it said that like-for-like sales growth was "good" and "particularly strong" over Christmas.

"Most of our members at Primark earn just GBP6.84 an hour and they are finding it increasingly difficult to make ends meet. With prices continuing to rise and government cuts to tax credits and other benefits beginning to bite, most people simply can't afford to accept what is effectively a pay cut for the second year running," sad Usdaw area manager Nicola Scarborough.

"There is no question of Primark being unable to afford a rise. Sales at the company continue to increase by double digits and in the past two years Primark has made profits of GBP644m. It's time for Primark to recognise the exceptional contribution its staff are making to this success."

Primark declined to comment on the planned action.