Seven health care workers a month are being brought to food banks by their union and the number is rising.
Unison’s John Creaney said the impact of low wages has led to many staff forced to claim crisis grants.
I have actually had to bring staff to food banksJohn Creaney Unison
Based at Craigavon Area Hospital, Mr Creaney said many of his colleagues are on the breadline, with some unable to buy even the basics.
And he blames the crisis on a stagnation in pay with many of his union members going without a pay rise since 2009.
Unison has organised a new campaign called Scrap The Cap - demanding that the government remove the pay cap on health service workers.
The union is negotiating with management but Mr Creaney says the current ‘debacle’ at Stormont is hindering the process.
“It is difficult because we don’t have anyone there to discuss the issue with,” he said.
“The campaign is to demand that Stormont lifts the pay cap and actually listens to the staff and removes the pay review body that we have had for years.”
Mr Creaney explained that the pay cap affected all grades of staff ‘from Band One staff who are just about reaching the minimum wage right up to Band Four who are also on low wages’.
The union is calling for the Living Wage to rise to £10 per hour.
“I have actually had to bring staff to food banks.
“We also have Unison welfare and, where staff are in crisis, we refer them to our head office who help with a welfare application.
“The figures are increasing, around six or seven members of staff per month.
“Unison also offers our low paid staff winter fuel grants and school uniform grants.
“Our pay within the health service in Northern Ireland is rock bottom compared to everywhere else. We want pay parity on a similar scale to that in Scotland.”
A spokesman from the Department of Health said: “The National Living Wage rate was uplifted to £7.50 per hour as of 1 April 2017, and this has been implemented across the HSC in accordance with the following Circular: www.health-ni.gov.uk/sites/default/files/publications/health/afc-pay-addendum-2016-17.pdf
“Whilst the Department cannot make decisions around wider pay awards for 2017/18 in the absence of a Minister, decisions on the recommendations of both Pay Review Bodies will be sought as soon as possible. These pay decisions will be made within the context of wider budget considerations, and the public sector pay policy.
“Members of staff who are experiencing significant pressures are encouraged to avail of the confidential support and advice services which are provided by their employers.”