More offers have been tendered for Newfoundland’s largest seafood company, Fishery Products International Ltd., causing union workers to fear a company breakup.

John Risley, a director on the FPI board, declined to name the companies tendering the new offers, but High Liner Foods Inc., the Barry Group, Ocean Choice International and a group from the FPI management team submitted offers last month.

The increasing number of offers has alarmed union members who believe a concerted effort is being made to break up the company, a move believe would prove detrimental to workers. “We’re all aware that everybody is anxious to bring this thing to some sort of conclusion, and everybody’s focused on trying to do just that,” Risley told Canadian Press.

FPI formed a committee to review all proposals and make a recommendation to the board. After that, the company will present a proposal to the provincial government. None of FPI’s assets, including plants, trawlers and quotas, can be sold without the province’s approval under the FPI Act. `’I don’t think it’s in the provincial interest at all to have the company kind of Balkanized and broken up into small bits,” said Earle McCurdy, president of Fish, Food and Allied Workers, which represents nearly 20,000 Newfoundlanders employed by the fishing industry.

McCurdy’s view is shared by Premier Danny Williams, who believes FPI should sell all its assets as a total package, not in pieces.

“Shareholders have to get a proper return on their investment here, but they don’t have to get a super-duper return to the detriment of the workers in this province,” Williams said in mid-February.

“I would like to see a process take place whereby there is some consolidation of…the assets,” said Williams. “But if every little piece gets sold all over hell’s half-acre, then I don’t think that’s in the best interests of the people of this province.” He indicated he might consider repeal of the FPI Act if the review committee produces an offer acceptable to the province. `’I think if we can get the safeguards that we feel we’re comfortable with in the course of this process, then that would be the way we’re leaning, if we’re asked to remove the FPI Act,” Williams said.

McCurdy said LaHave Seafoods Ltd., a small Nova Scotia company, is bidding for FPI’s scallop business, and that a couple of Danish companies are vying for its offshore shrimp and turbot quotas, but Risley said none of the new proposals came from foreign companies.

Barry Group, Ocean Choice International and FPI management team offers include its plants, vessels and groundfish quotas. The Ocean Choice bid also includes FPI’s offshore shrimp, turbot and scallop business. Meanwhile, FPI’s 1,700 plant workers and 200 trawler operators have worked without a union contract since March 21, 2005. The bids to buy the company came a month after the 800 workers who cast ballots out of 1,500 eligible members, voted overwhelming to reject the last contract offer which sought a $2 an hour cut in pay.