Pension overhaul in the wings, unions warned

The Newfoundland and Labrador government has told its largest unions that it is looking at revamping public-sector pension plans.
Unions told a revamp is in the wings, reports David Cochrane 2:36

The Newfoundland and Labrador government has told its largest unions that it is looking at revamping public-sector pension plans.

Government officials delivered the message to union leaders at a meeting in early November.

The news comes during contact talks in which the unions have claimed that the government has already been looking for concessions from its thousands of civil servants.

Finance Minister Tom Marshall said he wants to fix the unfunded liability in public-sector pension plans, which makes up a substantial portion of the provincial debt.

"The pension plans we have concern me because I don't think they are sustainable," Marshall.

Union members on alert

Carol Furlong, president of the Newfoundland and Labrador Association of Public and Private Employees, has alerted union members to the government's position in a recent video message.  

Furlong said she is worried that after months of contract talks, pensions are suddenly on the table.

"We also want to make our position quite clear - don't mess with our pensions," Furlong says in her video.

Finance minister Tom Marshall. (CBC )

Business groups have already lobbied Marshall to rein in pension benefits and costs, but Marshall said he's saving his thoughts on the matter for an upcoming meeting with the unions.

"I want to see what they have to say," said Marshall. "I've heard what the business community has to say. I want to hear what they have to say."

Unions giving detail

Some unions are already revealing details of what government has planned.

A bargaining bulletin from the Newfoundland and Labrador Teachers' Association has warned that government wants to freeze severance pay for some workers and eliminate such pay for others.

Some people in labour circles have been speculating that government plans to delay a long-awaited job evaluation plan until 2016.

Six months into contract talks, government and the public-sector unions have yet to discuss wages.