The head of Newfoundland and Labrador's largest public sector union says NAPE is prepared for a big battle over pensions if the provincial government takes an axe to defined benefits.

"We will be heading for a confrontation, the likes of which this province has never seen in its history," NAPE president Carol Furlong told delegates to the union's convention in St. John's.

The Newfoundland and Labrador government is studying ways to deal with a $5-billion unfunded liability in public-sector pensions.

Furlong said defined benefit plans are under attack everywhere, but had better not happen with plans for NAPE members and retirees.

"At the end of the day the plan has to remain a defined benefit plan where employees have security and economic protection in their retirement years," Furlong said.

"NAPE will not agree to or permit erosion of the pension plan that we have worked and paid for our entire working lives."

Furlong's comments drew strong applause from NAPE members.

Finance Minister Tom Marshall said in a statement to CBC News that no decisions have been made on unfunded pension liabilities.

He said that the pensions of current retirees will not be affected.