Alberta hospital laundry job cuts to begin in September as work outsourced


Alberta Health Services says 334 workers will lose their jobs by next April as it outsources the last of its in-house laundry work.

A transition will begin in September, starting in rural areas around Calgary, when company K-Bro Linen Systems will take over the work. By April 2022, all linens from AHS hospitals and care centres will be washed, sorted and shunted around by K-Bro.

The company already handles about two-thirds of AHS's linens, including in Edmonton and Calgary facilities.

"AHS is confident that K-Bro will continue to provide this high-quality service throughout the province on a continuous basis at their state-of-the-art facilities," AHS spokesperson Kerry Williamson said in an email.

Although he said costs will be lower with the service outsourced, he was unable to provide a dollar figure Monday.

The employees, AHS, and their union will "explore potential options" to see if laid-off laundry workers can get new jobs with K-Bro, Williamson said.

It will be mostly people in small cities and rural communities affected by the move, said Sandra Azocar, executive director of Friends of Medicare.

Many of the employees are in Medicine Hat, she said, but there may not be new jobs there. She says it's likely the linens will be trucked to Calgary. No one from K-Bro could be reached for comment Monday afternoon.

Trucking laundry around Alberta instead of washing it locally could also lead to shortages when the roads are in poor condition, said Alberta Union of Provincial Employees vice-president Kevin Barry.

Outsourcing all linen handling was one of several recommendations in the 2019 EY report, which was commissioned by the government to find possible cost savings and operational improvements for AHS.

The EY report said outsourcing seven services, including laundry, food and others, would save between $100 and $146 million a year. It would also prevent AHS from spending $200 million to upgrade aging in-house laundries.

Last October, the province announced up to 11,000 public health-care jobs would be outsourced.

It prompted hundreds of workers to stage an illegal walkout later that month.