More than 75 percent of AFFCO's meat workers have signed individual contracts and only some staff at Wairoa want a collective contract reinstated, the company says.
Dozens of Wairoa workers, who protested yesterday, said they would not go back to work until Talley's returns to the table.
AFFCO said the Wairoa plant was shut down for maintenance and staff were now being recalled for the new season.
The company said an employment contract must be in place before workers begin again, which left two options: to keep the plant closed, or offer an individual employment agreement, because the collective agreement had expired.
The Employment Court is due to hear the dispute in early October.
AFFCO operations director Rowan Ogg said the conditions in the individual contracts were similar to those in the old collective.
"In excess of 75 percent of our employees have been on individual employment contracts anyway.
"The individual employment agreement that we have provided has a choice of two options within it for the employees, and one of those options is quite similar but not identical to what was in the collective.
"The other option is identical to the employment agreements that were in existence prior to the collective expiring."
He said union claims that smoko breaks in the individual contracts had been shortened were incorrect.
"The smokos that are offered have been extended from three per day, two of which are quarter of an hour, to two per day each of which are half an hour, so it actually gives them longer to do their gear wash, both on leaving and returning and gives them at least a reasonable length of time.
"That option has been supported by the vast majority of those employees who are back under the new individual employment agreement."
Mr Ogg said the Wairoa plant had had one of the longest seasons, with the best earnings for many years.