New Zealand Meatworkers had their pay docked for two-minutes silence for Pike River Mine disaster

Meat workers in New Zealand are having a very bad Christmas after they had their pay docked for observing two minutes of silence, and then lost their jobs when the factory burned down.

Staff at the Silver Fern Farms Te Aroha plant stopped work and paid their respects to the victims of the Pike River mine disaster, as requested by New Zealand Prime Minister John Key.

But the New Zealand Herald reported that they lost pay for processing their daily quota of cattle – the equivalent of between 98 cents and $1.60 for each worker.

One worker who did not want to be named said the docked pay was a "kick in the teeth".

"Two cattle, 49 cents each, that's less than $1. What's a dollar to those mongrels."

Management did offer the workers the chance to make up the missed work as overtime at the end of the day, but the union declined this offer.

When asked why the plant didn’t just pay the workers for the time spent in remembrance, a spokeswoman for Silver Fern Farms chief executive Keith Cooper said it "just wasn't an issue at the time".

Another worker said the issue was raised at a staff meeting.

"There were quite a few people pissed off about it. It was brought up in the meeting. They were asking if they were going to get paid.

"They didn't know they were not going to get paid for it."

Two days after the minutes’ silence the meat works was destroyed by fire, leaving around 300 workers unemployed.

About 150 have found since work at other plants.