Alberta looking at changes to public sector pension plans

Alberta's finance minister is reviewing the province's four major public sector pension plans.

Changes could include retirement age, eliminating cost of living increase

Alberta's four major public sector pension plans are under review 1:51

Alberta's finance minister is reviewing the province's four major public sector pension plans.

The largest plan is the Local Authorities Pension Plan, or LAPP, which covers more than 200,000 current and retired civic employees from all municipalities including the City of Edmonton and nurses.

"Everyone's living longer which means for a pension plan, we're paying them their pension for longer than we had been anticipating and that costs money," said Meryl Whittaker, LAPP president and CEO.

The plan is in good shape financially and there's not problem with paying out benefits, but the plans need to look down the line, Whittaker said.

Some changes under consideration include raising the retirement age from 65 to 67, increasing the number of years that must be worked before retiring early and removing the automatic cost of living increase.

The Canadian Union of Public Employees, which has 35,000 members in the plan, worries about the impact.

"We do not believe the pension plan ... in this province is in such bad shape those things need to be changed," said Marle Roberts, president of CUPE Alberta.

The unions acknowledge the workforce is changing, but they want to consult to find ways that won't result in taking away benefits for members.

NDP MLA David Eggen said it's no coincidence the review comes while the province is planning a deficit budget.

"These are very modest pension plans," he said. "These are workers who work at long-term care facilities or at schools and for them to have the rules changed mid-stream is very unfair."

Recommendations from the LAPP will go to the board of directors, then a report goes to the finance minister at the end of March.

With files from CBC's Kim Trynacity