WORKERS at Marks & Spencer have become the latest to threaten strike action in what is fast becoming a Christmas of discontent.
Employees of the retail chain have voted by 94pc in favour of industrial action, in a dispute over the unilateral closure of their pension scheme.
The announcement came as ESB unions formally served strike notice on the company that could see the lights go out on December 16.
Workers at the energy company are in dispute with management over a pension fund deficit.
Trade unions Mandate and SIPTU have written to M&S management informing them that thousands of workers will down tool across 17 stores nationally on December 7, 12 and 20.
The company's management closed the workers' defined benefit pension scheme without agreement on October 31.
Gerry Light, Mandate assistant general secretary, said it was working with companies who were in financial difficulties but would not allow management to exploit workers in pursuit of even higher profits.
"In recent months the company has made many decisions which are baffling and shocking to the union and our members and if implemented would impact negatively upon them and their families," he said.
A Marks and Spencer spokesperson said: "M&S has done all it can to try and move this situation forward so we are extremely disappointed that the company has been given notice that strike action has been called."
It comes as Retail Excellence Ireland (REI) and the Irish Chambers of Commerce (ICC) admitted that the next 30 days will be crucial for many Irish high street shops across the country.
Irish retailers are hoping for a €1bn Christmas shopping windfall.
Such is the importance of the Christmas trade for austerity-hit Irish retailers that cities and towns are now investing heavily in special markets, Yuletide fairs and parking initiatives to entice shoppers to part with their hard-earned euros.