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Tone improving in Quebec pension talks – Montreal

Watch: Extended interview with union leader Marc Ranger 

MONTREAL — Pension talks between the Quebec government and municipal unions are progressing.

Municipal Affairs Minister Pierre Moreau met Tuesday morning with representatives from the Union Coalition for Free Negotiation for a meeting that lasted over an hour.

IN PHOTOS: Quebec pension protests get creative

The two parties are discussing Bill 3, the provincial Liberal party’s controversial plan to change municipal pension plans.

The government estimates the pension plans are almost $4 billion in the red.

When the bill was first introduced at the National Assembly in June, union leader Marc Ranger told reporters he saw it as a declaration of war.

Gallery: A look at some of the pension protests in Quebec over the summer

Union workers protest over a provincial proposal to overhaul pension plans at the legislature in Quebec City on Wednesday, August 20, 2014.

Clement Allard/The Canadian Press

Municipal workers frustrated with Bill 3 used the opening ceremonies of the Quebec Games to make a point about pensions on Friday, August 1, 2014.

Global News

Municipal workers frustrated with Bill 3 used the opening ceremonies of the Quebec Games to make a point about pensions on Friday, August 1, 2014.

Global News

Municipal workers frustrated with Bill 3 used the opening ceremonies of the Quebec Games to make a point about pensions on Friday, August 1, 2014.

Global News

Hundreds of city workers in Montreal participated in protests with firefighters lighting hats on fire to show their frustration with proposed pension reforms on June 17, 2014.

Global News

Hundreds of city workers in Montreal participated in protests with firefighters lighting hats on fire to show their frustration with proposed pension reforms on June 17, 2014.

Global News

Hundreds of city workers in Montreal participated in protests with firefighters lighting hats on fire to show their frustration with proposed pension reforms on June 17, 2014.

Global News

Hundreds of city workers in Montreal participated in protests with firefighters lighting hats on fire to show their frustration with proposed pension reforms on June 17, 2014.

Global News

Hundreds of city workers in Montreal participated in protests with firefighters lighting hats on fire to show their frustration with proposed pension reforms on June 17, 2014.

Global News

Hundreds of city workers in Montreal participated in protests with firefighters lighting hats on fire to show their frustration with proposed pension reforms on June 17, 2014.

Global News

Hundreds of city workers in Montreal participated in protests with firefighters lighting hats on fire to show their frustration with proposed pension reforms on June 17, 2014.

Global News

Montreal police officers wear red caps and dress down in protest over pension plan changes.

Global News

There were several protests over the summer, including one at Montreal city hall, and relations continued to deteriorate during committee hearings later in August.

Now, it seems the two parties are making some headway.

Watch: Firefighters’ union to pick up protest tab

Story continues below

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Moreau said he can “adjust” and possibly wait until collective agreements in each city expire to impose his reform, the 50-50 sharing of past, present and future deficits.

Montreal’s collective agreement expires in 2017.

Ranger told Global News he is not comfortable with the term “adjustment.” He would like to see major changes to the bill. But he noted that Tuesday morning’s meeting with Moreau was “constructive.”

“I can say it went better than expected,” said Ranger.

“We had absolutely no expectations coming into this meeting. We weren’t there to be polite, we were there to talk about a serious issue, so the discussions were very straightforward, and we’re not at a public commission, so I think that the discussions were honest.”

Unions are still planning to hold a big demonstration on September 20.

They intend however to respect Quebec’s Essential Services Act, which limits police and firefighters’ right to protest.

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