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Retired civil servants are taking the New Brunswick government to court alleging changes to their pension plan violate the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

Toronto-based law firm Koskie Minsky said Monday it had filed a legal challenge on behalf of more than 13,000 pensioners who used to work for the provincial government.

Under legislation passed last December, the firm said the retirees' pension plan is no longer automatically indexed to the cost of living as was previously the case. Instead, the indexing component is now conditional and discretionary.

The firm said the change discriminates against "vulnerable" pensioners on the basis of their age, and violates each pensioner's right to life and security of their person under the charter.

"Pensioners budget for their cost-of-living adjustments," the law firm said in a statement. "They rely on these annual escalations to help provide for themselves."

A spokesman for the provincial government could not be reached for comment.

The firm said the average pensioner it represents is over the age of 70, with 2,600 retirees over the age of 80. The average annual pension is $21,503, taking into account a 50 per cent survivor's benefit.

Ari Kaplan, the lead lawyer representing the retirees, said the government should have exhausted all options before moving ahead with the pension changes.

"In this case, pensioners say that the province ignored calls to study alternatives, opting instead for a 'fix' to get the pension liability 'off the books,' " he said in a statement.