Public sector workers have seen their incomes fall "drastically" because of the Government's cap on pay rises, forcing many to cut back on food shopping, a study shows.
A survey of 6,500 workers by Unison also found that just over half had borrowed money from family or friends and one in 10 had missed meals to feed their children.
Two out of five of those surveyed, including paramedics, teaching assistants, council workers and police staff, said they were not saving anything.
The results were released ahead of the first day of Unison's annual conference in Brighton, where general secretary Dave Prentis will call on the Government to lift the pay cap, which he warns has held back wages for several years.
Mr Prentis said: "Seven long years ago nurses, school meals staff, social workers, community support officers and other public service employees were told to tighten their belts as the Government said it had to freeze and squeeze their wages to pay down the deficit.
"As a result public sector workers have seen their incomes fall drastically in real terms, and with inflation on the rise this means real financial hardship.
"A modern caring society should not allow those who look after people when they're ill, help educate our children or keep the public safe on the streets to be treated in this shoddy way.
"The Government's harsh pay policies have left hospitals, schools, town halls and police forces struggling to attract new staff and hold on to experienced employees.
"The election result showed that people have had enough of austerity and the damage being wreaked on public services and communities."
:: The senior civil servants' union FDA has warned that public services could be "seriously undermined" because of dissatisfaction over pay.
A survey of 2,000 senior staff found most were unhappy with pay and were aware of recruitment problems.
In a letter to the Chancellor, FDA general secretary Dave Penman said: "There is a real risk that the continuation of the Government's current approach on civil service pay could seriously undermine public service delivery.
"Our survey found that a third of civil servants say they would like to leave the civil service as soon as possible.
"Even more concerning is the view expressed by 86% of respondents that their department is not sufficiently resourced to meet the challenges it will face in the year ahead.
"Members also highlight problems in recruiting new staff and retaining those who are recruited. The universal reason provided is dissatisfaction with pay.
"Failure to recruit and the high turnover of staff is wasteful and inefficient and, in many areas, is getting in the way of successful delivery."