Hundreds of Nortel pensioners fearing drastically reduced retirement benefits rallied outside the Ontario legislature yesterday, calling on the government to rethink the pension plan’s fate.

Their $2.5-billion underfunded plan will be wound up, under government supervision, at the end of the month.

The fund is to be converted into individual annuities with various financial institutions, but Nortel retirees are calling on Premier Dalton McGuinty for a different plan. A so-called financial sponsorship model, they argue, would allow financial institutions to compete to offer something like a pension to Nortel retirees.

“We are not asking something that is unreasonable,” Peter Kennedy, secretary-treasurer of Canadian Auto Workers, said.

“The government does not have to act in haste, there is time here and there are options.”

Ontario’s finance minister has called the financial sponsorship model a “riskier road” for a pension that has already been “horribly mismanaged.”