Daniel Légère, CUPE New Brunswick president

CUPE New Brunswick president Daniel Légère says a shared-risk model is not a "one-size-fits-all solution." (CBC)

The union representing many public employees in the province is divided over the Alward government's pension reforms.

CUPE New Brunswick said Friday it wants the province to slow down on the plan to switch to a shared-risk model.

But some union locals had previously agreed to the reforms.

In 2011, CUPE's regional director Gordon Black had praised the Alward government for the new pension model.

"Everybody should hold their heads high," Black had said of the plan, which amounted to a bailout for the hospital workers' pension fund, which was in bad shape.

In April 2013, Black reiterated his support for the new model, despite mounting criticism from retired civil servants. He said he understood why civil servants are worried about the changes, but said the alternatives could be worse. 

But CUPE New Brunswick president Daniel Légère said Friday the union is having second thoughts and the government should slow down its plans to switch over other, healthier, pension funds.

'Let's slow down the train here. There are other options. Let's take a look at those.' - Daniel Légère, CUPE New Brunswick president

"As a result of taking this sober second look, we went to the government and said, 'Let's slow down the train here. There are other options. Let's take a look at those,'" he said.

"A shared-risk model is a tool in the toolbox, and it's an effective tool for pension plans that are in crisis, such as the hospital plan was. It has its use, it has its purpose. But for a plan that's well funded and doing fairly well, it isn't a one-size-fits-all solution," Légère said.

Finance Minister Blaine Higgs says CUPE was "on board" with the new model earlier this year, but now that has changed.

"We worked with local people in New Brunswick and they're very supportive. So it seems at this point, at this time, we have a national influence that's basically is saying, `I don't know. Do we really want this?'"

Higgs believes national union leaders are worried the New Brunswick reform will become a model for public pension reform across Canada, and they want to stop it from going through.

Premier David Alward agrees, noting the province has been talking to CUPE representatives about the plan for two years now.

"And it's only been very recently, when the national CUPE got involved, that things seem to have gone sideways," he said.

"What we believe is that we have an outstanding program, and it was accepted by CUPE groups early on."