Hospital workers who will have their wages delayed by a week have protested outside the Scottish Parliament.

Staff at Hairmyres Hospital in East Kilbride, who are employed by private contractor ISS, are subject to a new payroll system being rolled out, and they have been told by management there will be a one week delay for their first wage under the new system.

Around 300 staff, many in low paid positions and mostly women, are affected by the change.

Union leaders said workers were being forced into debt and branded the changes “immoral”.

Johanna Baxter, Unison Regional Organiser, said: “This is an immoral act, from private profiteers, plunging the lowest paid members of staff in the NHS in Scotland into debt.

“You have to wonder how much interest this company is making on this money and off the backs of the lowest paid workers in the NHS and why it is the Scottish Government are letting them off with it.”

Margo Cranmer, Unison Branch Secretary, said “Unison members working for ISS will this week be working for free and offered a pay-day loan to survive. This is totally unacceptable and we will do everything in our power to protect our members’ position.”

The issue was raised with Nicola Sturgeon at First Minister’s Questions as the workers protested outside.

Monica Lennon, Labour’s Health spokeswoman, asked if Ms Sturgeon would intervene on behalf of the workers.

She said: “These workers, hospital cleaners, porters and catering, maintenance and domestic staff, are low paid and are being forced to apply for payday loans.

“Richard Leonard and I addressed the rally on the way to the chamber, but will the First Minister and the health secretary go outside and listen to the GMB, Unison and the workers and commit to doing all that they can to take the matter up with ISS UK and NHS Lanarkshire?”

Ms Lennon added: “Staff should be paid the wages that they are due, not be forced into debt or have to explain their financial circumstances to their bosses.

“This scandal should put an end to outsourcing NHS services to private firms. It’s not good for the health service to be reliant on private companies that put profits before people.”

The First Minister however, said this was a problem of Labour’s making.

She said: “Because it involves a private finance initiative hospital with a PFI contract signed by a Labour Government, this is, unfortunately, an issue between a private contractor and its staff first and foremost. That said, NHS Lanarkshire is actively trying to resolve the issue”

She added: “Our concern is for the staff involved, who are valued members of the local healthcare team, and it is vital to ensure that this situation does not impact on the hospital’s ability to provide services to patients.”

Ms Sturgeon said the Health Secretary has written to ISS asking for it to seek resolution with the health board and unions and asked for a meeting with the chief executive of the company and also offered to meet the unions.

She added: “However, this is one example and illustration of why the type of PFI contracts that were signed under previous Labour Administrations were such a big mistake. I hope that Labour has learned lots of lessons from them.”