01/20/2012 12:23 EST | Updated 03/21/2012 05:12 EDT

Ontario Public Sector Wage Freeze May Be Extended

The Ontario government may extend a wage freeze for about 350,000 public sector workers due to expire in March.

The two-year wage freeze was the highlight of the province’s 2010 budget.

It was imposed on all public sector staff who do not have collective bargaining. It includes non-unionized workers in hospitals, schools and government offices.

But with the province facing a $16-billion deficit and a sluggish economy, Premier Dalton McGuinty is being asked whether the freeze will be extended. He isn’t saying no.

"I'm convinced that families, including public sector workers, understand that it's not business as usual,” he told CBC News.

The freeze was not imposed on unionized public sector workers. Instead the government said it would seek two years of no wage increases through bargaining.

But many of those workers have managed to negotiate pay hikes, something Progressive Conservative Leader Tim Hudak wants McGuinty to address.

“So what's his plan?” asked Hudak. “Is he gonna perpetuate this divisiveness, give a wage freeze on some but not all? Or is he gonna lift the wage freeze altogether and give non-union workers catch-up pay and increase the size and cost of government once again?”

It's estimated an across-the-board pay freeze would save taxpayers $2 billion a year.