A company that operates five long-term care homes for seniors in Edmonton is laying off nearly 160 support staff.

The Alberta Union of Provincial Employees says Shepherd's Care Foundation issued layoff notices Thursday to 157 staff and announced it will contract out the jobs.

The union says Shepherd's Care has refused to disclose the name of the contractor taking over the provision of services.

It also says laid-off workers are not being offered any opportunity to reapply for their jobs.

Union president Guy Smith says bargaining on a new contract for the workers was to start soon.

Smith says the layoffs start to take effect on Oct. 2.

"We will certainly fight this move through every possible channel," Smith said in a news release.

"These workers don't deserve this. Some have up to 30 years of service at Shepherd's Care providing the housekeeping, maintenance, and food services that are a vital part of quality care for seniors."

In a written statement, John Pray, president and CEO of Shepherd’s Care, said that the decision to cut the workers “was not taken lightly.”

“It was with our growing numbers of residents in mind that Shepherd’s Care recently made the decision to partner with a third party food and housekeeping professional organization who is able to deliver the high level of food and housekeeping service that our residents expect and allow us to increase resources to our primary area of focus - the care of the residents within all Shepherd’s Care communities," he wrote. 

Alberta NDP leadership candidate David Eggens says the people who work caring for seniors deserve better. He says that there have been seven labour disputes with private care companies since 2008, when Alberta Health Services was formed, and that it is a sign of a broken system.

With files from CBC News