EDMONTON -- More than 60 custodial staff serving the University of Alberta will no longer have a job come this fall.

The university is laying off the workers and outsourcing the positions to a contractor to generate cost-savings as it works to balance its books after successive provincial budgets dealing cuts to the institution.

Andrew Sharman, vice president (facilities and operations), said in a statement that outsourcing the positions will not affect cleaning standards.

“We greatly appreciate the service of our custodial staff, both internal and contracted – and especially their hard work to maintain safety for the university community throughout the pandemic,” Sharman said.

“The University of Alberta recently started the final phase of a custodial services outsourcing strategy, which has been underway since 2019 due to institutional budget cuts,” he added.

The university has received $170 million in funding cuts by the UCP government since 2019. It undertook a restructuring process this past year to consolidate faculties and reduce expenses.

“What concerns me most about these layoffs is that the university is choosing to layoff our most vulnerable community members that we have,” said Jillian Pratt, president of the Non-Academic Staff Association (NASA) at the U of A.

“Those who are women, people of colour, new immigrants who make the least amount of money on campus, while at the same time adding multiple middle administration jobs at the top.”

Pratt told CTV News Edmonton that she has never received any documents showing how much cost-savings the layoffs would generate and that the university is not following its own outsourcing protocols.

“It really erodes trust with our organization and with our members,” she added.

“When you are choosing to cut your most vulnerable members, those who have been keeping us safe and healthy after a pandemic, and you are saying thank you with a pink slip – that is unconscionable.”

Sharman said that the outsourcing of positions was carried out while following the appropriate processes.

“We understand the concerns and appreciate the due diligence of NASA representatives on behalf of their members in ensuring the appropriate outsourcing processes are followed,” Sharman said. “We can confirm they were in this case.”

The University of Alberta Students’ Union (UASU) said in a Facebook post that it is “disturbed” by the layoffs.

“Their jobs are being outsourced to a cleaning company, and while we’re told that the affected staff will get job offers with that company, they’ll have reduced wages and benefits, and won’t be protected by the (NASA),” the UASU said.

“It hurts to see the University actively posting new job opportunities for managers, directors, and senior consultants,” the union added.