A leader with the union representing Fredericton police officers says morale on the force is at a seven-year low with the unresolved pension issue the latest in a string of issues.
Andrew Dawson says officers have been without a collective agreement for more than two years, without a permanent chief since last summer, have faced criticism over their handling of a blogger's case, and are now facing the possible loss of pension benefits as the city moves to a shared-risk plan.
"We have one member with nearly 25 years of service who, when it became clear that the city was going down this road, he just went in and tendered his resignation and said, ‘No, you know what? Enough is enough. I'm going home,'" said Dawson.
"And there are many who are nearly as distressed about what exactly it is the city is doing. The lack of information is the big thing."
Fredericton council had unanimously approved a plan on March 18 to convert the city’s pension plan to a shared-risk model, which has been promoted by the provincial government.
Under the new plan, city employees will have to work longer with fewer guarantees. Pensioners will also see changes to their cost-of-living adjustment.
Dawson says the police union was only officially notified of the plan six days before the city took action.
"It seems the city has been moving this way for a long time, but we haven't been part of the process at all," he said.
The Labour and Employment Board ruled switching to the new plan would have to be delayed for the police and fire departments until both groups have gone through arbitration hearings.
The police union is not planning any job action, said Dawson.
Two weeks have been set aside for an arbitration hearing in mid-June, he said. "We know we'll be able to present our case and get a fair answer finally."
Firefighters are expected to go into an arbitration hearing with the city later this month.
Meanwhile, city officials have said they will continue informal pension talks with the two unions, hoping they will agree to the shared-risk model.
The city's current plan has a $60-million deficit.