A group of public sector retirees is planning a series of public meetings to outline its concerns with the Alward government’s proposed pension reforms.

Pension Coalition NB, which is made up of hundreds of retired provincial government workers, has brought in pension rights lawyer Ari Kaplan and hired an actuary.

The group is critical of Premier David Alward’s decision to transition to a new shared-risk pension model.

The proposed model would also slowly phase in increased contribution levels and a higher age of retirement.

Retired civil servants worried

Public sector retirees flocked to public meetings to hear about the Alward government’s proposed pension reforms. (CBC)

Retirees maintain it's not fair to change their benefits retroactively.

Clifford Kennedy, a spokesperson with the coalition, said the outrage from retirees has been growing over the summer.

“Now what we want to do after six months of work and having had an actuary and some legal advice, we want to bring people up to date and basically get a very clear mandate from them for the go-forward future,” he said.

Kennedy says the public service pensioners will then have to decide whether to continue negotiations with the provincial government or take legal action.

The group is holding the first of 11 meetings in Quispamsis on Tuesday.

These meetings organized by the coalition come after Finance Minister Blaine Higgs held his own public sessions.

The finance minister attempted to ease the frustration about the pension reforms. He said was “embarrassed” about how the pension reforms had been handled and vowed to be “involved with it directly” in the future.

Retirees say they worked decades to earn the benefits they received at retirement and it’s unfair to have them taken away or reduced.

Under the shared-risk model, any future risk would be split between employees and the provincial government.

hi-nb-higgs-pension-moncton

FInance Minister Blaine Higgs listened to concerns of retired civil servants during public meetings in April.

The proposed model last May included increased contribution levels and a higher age of retirement, phased in over 40 years.

The finance minister said in the earlier meetings he’s dealing with a situation where some people may now be retired longer than they actually worked for the provincial government.

The finance minister said in the last budget he had to book $53 million in additional liabilities because of new mortality levels in the pension program.

The Public Service Superannuation Act (PSSA), which covers employees who work directly for government departments and NB Power, currently has a $1 billion shortfall.

It included 13,441 pensioners as of March 31, 2012. Their average annual pension was $20,603.