Ulster Unionist Party justice spokesman Doug Beattie said plans to ballot prison officers over pay claims were “the regrettable but inevitable result of how staff have been treated”.
Mr Beattie told the News Letter he had been informed that the Prison Officers Association intends to ballot members on industrial action, up to and including strike action, next week.
The Upper Bann MLA said that almost a year after negotiations started regarding the 2016 pay award for prison officers, talks have still not been completed and no rise has yet agreed or implemented.
He added: “This is further evidence of the crisis which exists within our prison system in terms of how the staff have been treated and the low morale that exists.”
“Inadequate staffing levels inside prisons are contributing to the already unacceptably high levels of stress which are being placed on officers.
“A recent response from the Justice Minster when asked when the 2016 pay award would be finalised, left me with no confidence that the Prison Officers Association and Prison Service Management Board requests are being taken seriously.”