Executives at the troubled Market Basket supermarket chain in New England say they have heard from employees who are ``concerned for their safety'' in a dispute over the company's direction.

In a statement Monday, co-CEOs Felicia Thornton and Jim Gooch say the employees are worried about attending a job fair that was set up to replace colleagues who walked off the job to protest the firing of the previous CEO. The company says it set up an email address so employees can apply for other jobs without attending the job fair scheduled to begin Monday.

Hundreds of employees have refused to work for the past two weeks. They have a Monday deadline to return or risk being replaced.

The protests have left store shelves severely depleted and sent customers elsewhere.