A majority of prison officers in England and Wales have voted for strike action in a pay dispute, their union said yesterday.
The Prison Officers' Association said more than 15,000 members called for industrial action in a workplace ballot of 132 public sector prisons.
The union said 71 per cent of members had voted with 83 per cent in favour.
The dispute centres on allegations of "interference" in the Pay Review Body for officers.
The POA has accused the Government of imposing a 1.6 per cent pay rise from April, amounting to a pay cut.
The Prison Service warned it could face legal action if it breaches a binding agreement preventing industrial action.
Colin Moses, POA national chairman, said: "Our members have demonstrated their frustration and anger at the lack of independence of the Pay Review Body.
"The ball is now firmly in the Government's court and we call upon Gerry Sutcliffe, the Minister responsible for prisons, to meet with us.
"Until such time as we achieve an independent Pay Review Body, recommended by the International Labour Organisation, the possibility of action will remain."
A Prison Service statement issued before the results said: "It is of grave concern the POA are likely to take action in breach of a legally-binding agreement jointly signed by the POA and Prison Service.
"If necessary the Prison Service will seek legal remedy.
"The Minister has written to the POA asking them for areas for discussion."