Unions are choosing their words carefully in light of the provincial government's plan for public-sector pension reform.

Premier Kathy Dunderdale announced Thursday that pensions of retirees won't be affected, opening up the discussion about who exactly will be affected.

NAPE president Carol Furlong said cutting pension benefits isn't in the public's interest.

"At the end of the day, when people have a pension, they're putting money back into the economy," she said.

"It's a good thing for the economy to have people in receipt of pension benefits."

All sides agreed it's early in the process, but some preliminary discussions have taken place.

The government hasn't said how it plans to change its pension plans, but it is involving the unions in consultations.

Jim Dinn, president of the Newfoundland and Labrador Teachers' Association, said his members have a separate pension plan, and any changes would have to be negotiated at the bargaining table.

"We're concerned about having a pension for all of our members, but are we concerned that there's going to be changes that would affect our members, either retired or active? No, not at this point in time," he said.

Employers' council reacts

Meanwhile, the Newfoundland and Labrador Employers' Council is applauding government's plan to restructure public service pensions.

Richard Alexander, the council's executive director, said the plans already have an unfunded liability of $5 billion, and that projections suggest it could balloon to $6.5 billion by next year.

He said it's growing at an alarming rate.

"You can think about it as a debt owed. It's $5 billion that's already been promised that the government doesn't have the money to put into that fund to pay out those benefits over the long term. So, a restructuring is long overdue," Alexander said.

"If government and unions don't get together and restructure the pension program, it's going to impact things like health care, education, [and] it'll impact the debt and the taxation levels for our children," he said.