Rob Pettefar, Swindon Socialist Party

One in five people using a food bank come from households where at least one person is in work. This shocking statistic is part of the changing profile of the average food bank user.

Nurses, shop assistants and youth workers are among the low-paid workers joining the growing list of people relying on food banks.

The rising cost of living, and the failure of wage growth to keep pace with inflation, have eroded the ability of working people to make ends meet. There has been a 40% increase on first-time food bank users in recent months, and it is expected that the situation will only get worse.

There was outrage in the summer as the news came of a ‘community pantry’ set up by BT in one of its call centres as staff struggle to make it to the end of the month.

After a decade of pay freezes, many NHS trusts now provide hardship grants, discount meals for staff and their children, subsidised travel arrangements, and organise school uniform swap shops.

27% of NHS trusts operate food banks for their staff, a further 19% are looking to open one in the future. At the same time, health secretary Steve Barclay has the front to call the Royal College of Nursing’s demand of a 17% pay rise unaffordable!

Food bank use has been on a long-term rise. Tory governments over the last decade and more have overseen public sector pay freezes, increases in zero-hour contracts, and benefit cuts. They have also seen even more money go to the rich in the form of rising dividends and CEO pay.

We need at least a £15-an-hour minimum wage, a decent pay rise for NHS workers and other public sector workers, and an end to zero-hour contracts. We call on the trade union leaders to make a stand: to coordinate strike action to fight for pay rises that keep up with the cost of living, and also to present a political challenge to austerity politicians, Tories, Labour and others, putting forward candidates in elections prepared to fight in our interests.