Public sector unions in Ontario are balking at the idea of a two-year wage freeze as long as the province is giving corporations a $4.5-billion tax cut.

Ontario Finance Minister Dwight Duncan sat down yesterday with union leaders and employers who run public institutions such as hospitals, schools and universities to talk about freezing salaries for about 710,000 workers.

The meeting wasn’t exactly the consultation process the unions had been expecting when it was hastily scheduled just a week ago, said Smokey Thomas of the Ontario Public Service Employees Union.

“This is more like a presentation to us rather than, as the minister has billed it, a consultation,” said Thomas. “It’s not a consultation; he’s just trying to tell us what he wants (and) just because he wants something doesn’t mean he’s going to get it.”

What Duncan wants is to negotiate new two-year agreements with each of the public sector unions as current contracts expire that would give workers “zero and zero” increases in compensation.

Duncan said the corporate tax cuts were a key part of the government’s economic recovery plan and would not be reversed.