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Alberta public sector unions rally against pension changes

Public sector employees held rallies across the province today to protest government plans to reduce their pension benefits and collective bargaining rights.

Union members also oppose government bills to limit bargaining rights

Public sector employees rally against planned changes to their pension plans. (CBC)

Alberta public servants held rallies in 30 locations across the province today to protest changes to their pension plans.

In Calgary, several dozen union members defied the wintry weather to hold a protest outside the Foothills Medical Centre.

CUPE Alberta president Marle Roberts said public sector pension reforms need to be negotiated with unions. (CBC)

The provincial government wants changes to public sector pensions that would raise the age at which a plan member could retire on full pension. The change would also reduce the indexation of benefits.

Union officials say the changes, which would take effect in 2016, are being imposed unilaterally by the government. 

Marle Roberts, Alberta president of the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE), said public pensions are well-funded and any pension reforms must be negotiated. 

Alberta Union of Public Employees (AUPE) president Guy Smith speaks to a rally of union members in Calgary. (CBC)

"We are out here today to tell the government that our pensions are sustainable, that our pension is in good shape and to keep your hands off our pensions and do not legislate changes without meaningful consultation."

Guy Smith, head of the Alberta Union of Public Employees (AUPE), warned workers will leave the public sector because of these changes and they will have a negative impact on services to Albertans.

Smith said he is hopeful that Alison Redford's resignation will allow the provincial government reconsider the pension changes, as well as Bills 45 and 46, which would remove some collective bargaining rights like the right to arbitration.