Kition Ocean Holdings sent notice of dismissal to all its workers at the Larnaca port on Tuesday night.

The company sent the letters a day after the government tore up its contract with them for the port’s renovation, citing Kition’s repeated failure to pay its requisite financial guarantee.

Responding to the news on Wednesday morning ahead of a cabinet meeting, President Nikos Christodoulides said the government “must move quickly” on the matter.

Trade union Ompegie-Sek leader Charalambos Avgousti confirmed the company had sent the letters to the workers, but that despite this, the workers had arrived for work as normal on Wednesday morning.

He added that the meeting between trade unions and transport and labour ministers Alexis Vafeades and Yiannis Panayiotou, initially planned for Thursday, had been brought forward to Wednesday afternoon as a result of the move.

“We are awaiting information on how [the workers] will be employed,” he said, adding that Panayiotou and Vafeades had both already offered them assurances regarding their future.

He also welcomed Nikos Christodoulides’ confidence on Tuesday night that the development of the port and of Larnaca’s marina would “continue as planned

Christodoulides had added that “we owe it to Larnaca and its people to find a capable company to handle the development”, and assured workers that they “do not need to worry” about their futures.

“I think we all have the will to ensure these workers do not become victims, so a way forward will be found,” Avgousti said, adding that various ideas for how the matter may be resolved had already been discussed in preliminary talks with Panayiotou on Monday. For this reason, he said, he is optimistic.

He said work at the port is currently going ahead under the ports authority but said the workers “cannot be employed by the ports authority” as a permanent solution.

He added that the port is in general operating as usual, but that cranes and other machinery owned by Kition are not being used. As a result, he said, ships are being loaded and unloaded with other machinery, and that this may lead to works being carried out “a little slower” than normal.

Looking ahead to Wednesday’s meeting, he said he hopes there will be “clearer answers” in the afternoon.

“There is only one way to find a solution,” he said, adding that “the workers are the ones who have been carrying out the works at the port for the last two years, and it is necessary that they stay at the port for there to be a smooth transition, and for the port’s operations to run smoothly.”

Fellow trade union leader Natia Kyritsi of Segdamelin-Peo also spoke on Wednesday.

“Our position is that the same job Kition had will be taken by someone else. They must give the jobs to the workers who are already on the inside and doing them,” she said, adding that the current workers are “qualified, professional people”.

“The new regime must employ the workers who have thus far worked at the port, on the same terms and in line with their collective agreement,” she said, adding that the agreement does not expire until June 1 next year.

Additionally, she said Kition is obliged to pay the workers’ salaries for the month of May.

She was also positive about Panayiotou’s interventions so far, saying the government is working “positively” and that it “does not want to make a victim of any worker”.

“Today, all these issues must be clarified, and there must be an agreement about under which regime the workers will work,” she said, adding that the workers’ current rights are “non-negotiable”.