Janitors who clean the MBTA's 145 stations are protesting a move by the Baker administration to limit spending on cleaning contracts, leaving the cleaners worried for their jobs and warning that the T could get a lot dirtier.

The T and it's two janitorial contractors say they can keep the transit system clean for the initial cost of their contract, $36.5 million, instead of the $53.1 million that's actually being paid annually to the cleaners. Keeping those costs down means layoffs for workers. 

Janitors who rallied at the State House Wednesday say there's just no way the staff can clean the stations to the level it has without the current number of janitors.

"What the governor tried to do is really, really crazy idea 'cause they don't really know how much we gotta do to keep the stations clean," Jose Jafador, who cleans the Forest Hills station in Jamaica Plain, told WGBH News Wednesday.

Video by Audrey Falk

In a statement provided by the MBTA, contractor S. J. Services Inc. wrote that the company "has full confidence that the current level of cleanliness will not be disrupted," and that performance-based contracts like the one with the MBTA are common in the janitorial industry. 

“We have been successfully operating cleaning programs for the MBTA at stations and facilities for nearly 10 years so we are speaking from direct experience” S. J. Services president David Shea wrote in a statement.

The company says that by changing to a third shift schedule to do the majority of MBTA station cleaning overnight when there are no commuters will save money and bring the service down to the cost of the initial contract.

The company wrote that some staffers will be scheduled during the day to respond to cleaning emergencies.

The T blames the overpayment to the cleaning companies on former Gov. Deval Patrick's administration's decision to maintain more janitor positions than the current administration says is necessary for the work. 

 "The MBTA is exercising an option under the originally negotiated contract and will continue to hold our vendors to the highest standards so our riders will be provided with a clean, comfortable and reliable transit system," MBTA General Manager Brian Shortsleeve wrote in a statement provided to the press.

The contract is based on performance outcomes and not headcount, so the number of positions is up to the contractor.

"I'm really worried about my job because I may be one of those persons who's gonna go fired, or if I staying, I not gonna do double job, I gonna do triple job and I don't really is - is fair," Jafador, who lives in East Boston, told WGBH News.

The scuffle over cleaning workers comes as the MBTA is faced with a formidable operating budget deficit and an even more staggering backlog of maintenance and improvement projects, causing Shortsleeve and the T's board to seek out savings wherever it can.

Potential layoffs for janitors is one of many ways MBTA management is attempting to reign in spending through contracts with private contractors.

“Firing janitors who clean and maintain the stations each day is the latest effort in the MBTA leadership’s misguided campaign to try to balance the MBTA’s budget on the backs of dedicated workers who keep the system running," Boston Carmen’s Union Local 589 president James O’Brien, the head of the T's largest employee union, wrote in a statement.

The T plans to put the changes into effect September 1.