09/05/2014 03:10 EDT | Updated 11/05/2014 05:59 EST

Company says layoffs at Edmonton senior care homes won't affect quality of care

EDMONTON - The company that operates five senior care homes in Edmonton says laying off nearly 160 people won't affect quality of care.

John Pray, the president and CEO of the Shepherd’s Care Foundation, says the not-for-profit organization has to continually look for ways to operate more efficiently and improve quality.

The Alberta Union of Provincial Employees says layoff notices went out Thursday to 157 staff who do housekeeping, maintenance, and food services.

Pray said in a statement on the foundation's website that it recently decided to contract out the jobs.

He says the provider — which he called a food and housekeeping professional organization — will have to meet detailed and established quality measures and standards.

The union says bargaining on a new contract for the laid off workers was to start soon.

“We believe that this change will allow us to assist an increasing number of seniors, while still providing a similar level or better level of hospitality and accommodation services that Shepherd’s Care residents and families expect," Pray said.

Pray said the foundation began in 1970 with a mandate to provide seniors housing, home care, supportive living and long-term care that is affordable, adding the decision to lay off workers "was not taken lightly."

The union says the layoffs start to take effect Oct. 2.