New Brunswick is imposing a two-year wage freeze on all its civil servants, Human Resources Minister Rick Brewer said Thursday.

A day after news started leaking that the Liberal government could cut "hundreds" of bureaucrats in next Tuesday's provincial budget, Brewer and Premier Shawn Graham met with public sector union leaders in Fredericton.

Brewer said the freeze will affect all upcoming contract negotiations.

"There are several that are coming up, so everyone in the system will get a two-year freeze," Brewer said.

Brewer said he wasn't sure how much money the wage freeze would save. He said more details will be available when the provincial budget is released next week. 

There are seven bargaining groups negotiating with the provincial government, representing 4,592 positions. Among those groups are court stenographers, highway workers, forest rangers, school secretaries and nurse managers.

Unions that have recently signed collective bargaining agreements, such as the nurses, will have the two-year freeze kick in after their existing contract expires.

The Liberal government is expected to table a budget next Tuesday with a deficit that could hit $800 million, and along with that will come an array of program and job cuts.

Brewer said the hard economic times are impacting everyone.

"Everyone is being asked to share in this pain and it is pain. All MLAs … all non-bargaining units, all units that are bargaining, we're asking to share in this pain and I believe that the union leadership will step up and they will help us," Brewer said.

Union officials have yet to comment on the wage freeze. The labour leaders will take the information to their members and meet again on Saturday.

There were 47,035 paid employees as of Dec. 31, 2007, which is the latest statistic available from the Office of Human Resources.