Broadmoor Hospital
Prison officers are striking at Broadmoor Hospital, which houses Peter Sutcliffe Andrew Smith/Creative Commons

UK prison officers have had to turn food banks and payday loans to make ends meet, according to the head of the Prison Officers Association.

Steve Gillan, the general secretary of the POA, told IBTimes UK that some of his union's 31,100 members are "struggling".

"It is not unknown for some of our members to have to rely on food banks and payday loans, and other such issues," Gillan said.

"Everybody seems to be struggling these days apart from a select few. It seems to me that the richer you are, the more tax breaks you get."

The trade union chief made the comments ahead of a strike by prison officers across three high-security psychiatric hospitals.

Workers at Rampton, Ashworth and Broadmoor will walk out for four hours between 7am until 11am on 24 October.

After the strike action a work to rule on an open ended mandate will take place for continuous action, according to the POA.

The union said its members backed the strike action by 78% and other forms of industrial action by 91%.

The move is a protest against the government's decision to not award all NHS staff a 1% pay hike – as recommended by the NHS Pay Review Body.

"We are disappointed the POA is taking industrial action and has rejected our proposals to give NHS staff, including those working in secure hospitals, at least 1% additional pay this year and at least a further 1% next year," said a spokesperson from the Department of Health.

The strike will follow walk outs from NHS workers and civil servants earlier in the month.

"All the health trade unions have asked the Coalition Government to reconsider and to get into dialogue, which the health secretary [Jeremy Hunt] refuses to do," Gillan said.

"I don't think anybody in their right mind actually wants to take strike action. Strike action is a total last result."

The psychiatric hospitals house some of Britain's most well-known killers, including Ian Brady (Ashworth) and Peter Sutcliffe (Broadmoor).

But Gillan stressed that members of the public will not be in danger because of the industrial action.

"The public can be reassured because we are a responsible trade union who knows the dangers of the patients we look after and have been looking after very effectively on behalf of society," the trade union chief said.

"That's why we have put mechanisms in place to have minimum cover arrangements to provide safety for the prisoners themselves.

"Our issue isn't about the patients, our issue is a protest against the government. We will make sure members of the public are not in danger."