Fears are growing for jobs in 25 care homes across Northern Ireland after their owner announced thousands of job cuts.
Southern Cross, which has 750 homes across the UK, announced that it will cut 3,000 posts after saying it was in a "critical financial condition". If the cuts are applied proportionately across the UK, around 100 jobs would be under threat here.
The company, whose operations in the province include Castle Lodge in Antrim, Greenhall Lodge in Londonderry and Longfield in Eglinton, revealed losses of £311m in the six months to the end of March. It also said it would be underpaying landlords by 30% to get costs under control.
Staff in Northern Ireland care for around 1,400 of the province's elderly people. Some of the homes, including Longfield, are for young people with severe disabilities.
In a statement, Southern Cross said: "Home managers, deputy managers and relief managers, activity coordinators and administrators will not be directly affected by the proposed reduction in jobs and the process is expected to be complete by October."
Joe McCusker, the Northern Ireland regional organiser of trade union Unison, said: "We have members in Southern Cross and we will be seeking to meet with the organisation."
Unison has also expressed concerns about Four Seasons Healthcare, which is the biggest care home provider in Northern Ireland with 67 homes and 3,750 staff.
A report by the union said Four Seasons in the UK was "in severe financial difficulties". But its head Dr Pete Calveley said it was "not in any difficulties".
Southern Cross leases 45 homes from Four Seasons, but none of these are in Northern Ireland.
Jamie Buchan, chief executive of Southern Cross, said: "We are engaging with colleagues to put in place the best possible staffing model for our future needs."
Difficulties in the care home sector are not confined to Southern Cross, according to a report yesterday by trade union Unison. It claimed UK-wide Four Seasons Healthcare - which employs 3,700 people in Northern Ireland - was in financial trouble. But its UK chief denied the allegation and said the company was "in good health" after a major debt restructuring.