Public sector workers in Ontario have received the first wave of pink slips expected as part of planned government cuts.

The Ontario Public Service Employees Union says its members have received 274 layoff notices, kicking off a process that will eliminate 1,900 jobs between now and next March.

OPSEU says the overall cuts will be the biggest wave of job losses in the Ontario public service since the rule of former Tory premier Mike Harris.

Union president Warren (Smokey) Thomas says the Harris era should have taught the province that cuts to public services hurt everyone.

Premier Dalton McGuinty, he says, was elected to "turn the page on eight years of destructive cuts" -- not make the same mistakes.

The cuts mean the province will stop verifying local social assistance distribution, reduce staffing that monitors collection agencies, and lay off 57 people with technical expertise in water safety and air quality.

The union says there will be more notices given out during the summer, and is asking its members to wear pink and don band aids with the phrase "cuts hurt."

"Today is the first of many dark days ahead for the dedicated employees of Ontario's public service," Thomas said.

"We will use all resources at our disposal to fight back. We will make these cuts an election issue."

It's unusual for a government to lay off employees in an election year, but Environment Minister John Wilkinson said Wednesday that the cuts were the type of "pruning" people expected.

The layoffs, he said, won't affect public services, because all programs were carefully reviewed to ensure the right positions are targeted.

The five per cent reduction in public sector jobs was announced in the province's budget.