One hundred employees of one of the country's leading research centres staged a strike today in a dispute over pay parity with colleagues at University College Cork.

Tyndall National Institute is one of UCC's main research centres and it specialises in high-end information, nano and medical technology.

However, researchers at Tyndall say they are being paid up to a third less than colleagues doing comparable work at the college.

Pickets were placed on the Tyndall Institute this morning by researchers who are members of SIPTU and the Irish Federation of University Teachers.

The unions are pursuing the pay claim jointly, but talks at the Labour Relations Commission ended without agreement last month.

SIPTU and IFUT say they will hold a one-day strike at UCC, as well as at the Tyndall Institute, next Wednesday.

The two unions have more than 2,000 members between them at the college and a strike would most likely cause serious disruption on the main college campus.

In a statement, UCC said it acknowledged that there should be no disparity of treatment between staff at the Tyndall Institute and staff at UCC, but it said the current difficulties stem from constraints imposed by public service pay policy.

UCC has warned that the current industrial action poses significant financial and reputational risk to the Tyndall Institute.

Local SIPTU trade union organiser Bill Mulcahy said 200 workers in the Tyndall Institute are paid between 10% and 30% less than their UCC counterparts.

Mr Mulcahy said they have been in the LRC approximately seven times over the past six months trying to reach an agreement.

"Every time it came down to actually resolving the pay inequity the talks broke down," he said.

Speaking on RTÉ's Morning Ireland, Mr Mulcahy said Tyndall employees should be paid the established rate for the job.

He said: "This isn't about a pay increase. This is about people being paid the rate for the job and why in this day and age they should be paid 20 and 30% less than the established rate for the job beats me."