RIVERSIDE Meats Echuca workers have picketed the abattoir after wage and conditions talks broke down.
Police were called there yesterday after workers, members of the Australasian Meat Industry Employees Union (AMIEU), blocked all traffic from entering or leaving the plant and tensions between the workers and management flared.
After further negotiations were unsuccessful the workers finally agreed to allow access to the site in hope negotiations would resume.
The unions said the main concern was about the tally system, an incentive system that pays workers more for increased output.
Riverside wants to shift its staff onto fixed hours and salaries.
AMIEU secretary Barrie Chalkley said the agreement put forward by Riverside Meats was unacceptable but employees were willing to negotiate.
“We are fighting to keep the pay and conditions we have under our current agreement,” he said.
“There have been unproductive meetings about the agreement and that’s why we decided to undertake this legal, industrial action.
“We set up a picket line at 6am Thursday morning but decided to let traffic through at about 11am as an act of good faith to encourage the company to negotiate.”
Mr Chalkley said he was disappointed the situation had become a case of the “biggest bully winning” and hoped it didn’t come to employees being locked out.
“If they lock us out, it will get ugly,” he said.
“We will continue the action if the company continues to refuse negotiations.”
Riverside Meats were contacted for comment but had not responded at time of publication.