Public sector employees were braced for a showdown at a public meeting in Yellowknife last night, but the tension broke when MLAs made it clear they want Bill 12 to establish a defined benefit pension plan. 

Last night, MLAs reviewed Bill 12, the Northern Employee Benefits Services Pension Plan Act, which could affect the pensions of around 1,100 public sector workers and teachers in the territory last night.

Unions have been concerned about a section allowing retirement benefits to be potentially clawed back.

"I was quite anxious to see what was going to come down the pipe," says Gayla Meredith, president of the NWT Teachers' Association, who attended a public meeting on the issue. 

But at the outset of the meeting, MLAs made it clear they want the plan legally established as a defined benefit plan. That's important to the unions because, under a defined benefit plan, shortages in the fund are made up by the employer, not by workers.

"I just looked around the room as soon as that happened with those words and there were quite a few smiles on people's faces," says Allan McDonald, a Yellowknife vice-principal represented under the pension plan. "That kind of set the tone right away."

McDonald said he also supports a change that would put an equal number of workers and employers on the pension committee.

The bill still needs to undergo a third reading in the legislative assembly.

Committee chair Michael Nadli said that will happen some time before the fall election.