Tory Leader Kathy Dunderdale has refused to resolve a Burin Peninsula fisheries dispute while the election campaign is still underway.

Dozens of workers from the Marystown plant confronted Dunderdale Saturday in Burin as she arrived for a campaign appearance.

"We want work, we want work," they chanted as they surrounded Dunderdale and incumbent area MHAs Clyde Jackman and Darin King as they got off the campaign bus.

"At least level the playing field here and say to the company, until we find a solution here, you're not going to continue to ship out 10 million pounds of redfish and not create a single job in Marystown," union official Allan Moulton told Dunderdale during an extended and sometimes pointed exchange.

The workers say it is unfair that Ocean Choice International, which has yet to recall workers from an expected summer layoff, is able to ship much of its raw product to China while leaving its own workforce idle.

Dunderdale said she agrees something has to be done, but said now is not the time to do it.

"Look, I will meet with you, there's no issue with that," Dunderdale told the workers.

"But in terms of doing something during an election to buy votes? Not doing it."

The OCI dispute has nonetheless been an election issue in Burin-Placentia West. Workers have accused Jackman, who is the minister of fisheries, of ignoring the issue. The Tories have pointed out that many of the plant workers are supporting NDP candidate Julie Mitchell.

OCI has been shipping half of the quota attached to the plant to China for processing, but has argued that in order to stay profitable, it needs to send 80 per cent overseas.

The provincial government is conducting an audit at the plant.

Plant worker Teresa Power, who has worked at the Marystown plant for 34 years, said a decision on OCI should have been made before the campaign started.

"What we're fear of happening is that once the election is over, then most of the redfish will be shipped out and the company will have, you know, made their money that they wanted to make on the redfish," Power told CBC News.