Car production workers at a key Vauxhall plant became the first employees in recent years to vote for an all-out strike.
Members of the Transport and General Workers' Union at the Ellesmere Port works in Cheshire voted narrowly in favour of an indefinite stoppage over an offer worth 2.5 per cent this year and at least 3 per cent next. T&G members at Luton are voting over the next few days.
While the vote for a strike was by a wafer-thin margin of 911 to 848, it is the first sign that workers are seeking to take advantage of tentative signs that the recession may be coming to an end. The staff also voted for industrial action short of a strike by a decisive 1,259 to 547.
The 9,000 Vauxhall workers in Britain have been offered 2.5 per cent this year. From next autumn they have been offered 3 per cent plus a lump sum worth 1 per cent of their basic rate and a further 1 per cent if inflation hits 4 per cent.
A union spokesman said the offer did not reflect the pounds 223m profits made by the company last year and a surplus of more than pounds 1bn over the past six years.
TGWU members at the Luton plant will vote in the next few days. Members of the Amalgamated Engineering and Electrical Union at Vauxhall have not been balloted on industrial action.
Vauxhall said against the background of a European recession, its offer was generous.