Labour leaders moved quickly to condemn Ontario's Liberal government for legislation that would freeze wages for nearly half a million public sector workers.

The legislation resembles the bill the Liberals used to impose a wage contract on teachers earlier this month, freezing pay and benefits for two years but allowing some upward movement on salary grids.

The government says the bill doesn't take away the right to strike, but it does give Finance Minister Dwight Duncan the power to impose a contract, which he says would end any strike.

However, public sector union leaders, including Ontario Federation of Labour president Sid Ryan, say the bill does take away their right to strike and the right to bargain collectively.

Smokey Thomas of the Ontario Public Sector Employees Union says Premier Dalton McGuinty is picking a needless fight with labour.

Municipalities are exempt, which means the wage freeze bill will not apply to police, fire, ambulance, public transit or other local workers.

The Ontario Federation of Labour is holding an emergency meeting later on Wednesday with other union leaders to talk about how to mobilize to challenge the wage freeze bill.

"(Former premier) Mike Harris tried to take away the right to strike and right to negotiate for a two year period, and we did exactly what we're probably going to do today, call an emergency convention of the entire labour movement," said Ryan.

"We're saying to McGuinty: remove the threats to take away the right to strike, allow people to go to the bargaining table."

Several unions representing most of Ontario's teachers say they'll challenge the legislation all the way to the Supreme Court of Canada.

Duncan says he's confident the wage freeze bills will withstand court challenges, but admits it's a serious risk for the government.