Finance Minister Blaine Higgs says he's open to reforming the pension plan for teachers in ways other than moving to the shared-risk model that was recently put into effect for the province's civil service.

Higgs initially asked teachers to adopt the shared-risk model, but now says he will be flexible to get the union on board.

New Brunswick Teachers' Federation co-president Peter Fullerton says the union wants enough time to develop an alternate plan because they won't agree to the shared-risk model.

Blaine Higgs

Blaine Higgs says he understands the province's property tax deferral program for seniors does not meet their expectations. (CBC)

"We believe there are other options other than the Schedule B that was presented to the teachers," said Fullerton. "It isn't the only option. It isn't one size fits all."

Higgs has agreed to hear an alternative proposal from the teachers, but says the important thing is that any alternative achieves the same goal.

"What they've suggested is, `We would like to evaluate some options and we'd like to present those to you at the end of the month,'" said Higgs. "And we said, `That'll be fine. Let's do that.'"

Higgs says the province won't consider any proposal that requires the province to top up the teachers' pension fund by contributing three dollars for every one dollar put in by teachers. 

The province will stop making those payments in the 2014-15 fiscal year. Over the last 10 years, provincial taxpayers have contributed $870 million to the teachers pension fund through the payments.

"That's the criteria," said Higgs. "Whether it looks like what we've put together or is called something else is irrelevant. The issue is it has to meet the objectives that assure it's going to be there."

Higgs doesn't legally need the teachers to agree to the pension changes as the Alward government can legislate a new pension system.

Legislation was passed before Christmas that changes the pension plan for civil servants and retirees to a shared-risk model. Under the new system for the public service, employees have to increase their own contributions to the pension plan by an average of $1,200 a year.

The shared-risk model sees employees and retirees take on more risk for the pension fund's performance, instead of the government being the only party at risk if there is a downturn in the markets.