Greek union workers protested in Athens on Wednesday (May 1) as thousands marked May Day with a strike against harsh austerity required by the country's foreign lenders.

The protests were kicked off by thousands of workers from various sectors that support the Communist Party Labour Union, a symbolic workers' rights movement.

The protesters gathered in central Athens, opposite the parliament and finance ministry, waving union flags and holding carnations in honour of May Day. The leader of the Communist Party, Dimitris Koutsoubas, attended the protest while pensioners and students also rallied in support.

"What we want to say to the government is that their plans to abolish all the workers, in inverted commas, they are not going to pass. We are here to fight, we are here to stay, and we are here to win for the working class people, and for our people here in Greece and why not, all over the world," said unemployed university professor Filio Diamanti.

Unions called the 24-hour strike on Wednesday to oppose government economic reforms they say have damaged the rights and livelihoods of workers.

Passenger ships and railway services cancelled their scheduled routes, while teachers, civil servants and bank employees stayed away from their jobs.

Security guards and employees of the famous Acropolis monuments, including the Parthenon Temple, also participated in the strike, shutting out tourists as the season kicks off.

Greece's lawmakers passed the latest austerity bill into law in parliament on April 28, easing the way for the next batch of rescue funds from its European and international lenders. This is the fourth wave of austerity measures since 2010 when Greece asked for financial rescue from the European Union andInternational Monetary Fund.

The latest measures include an unprecedented plan to dismiss 15,000 civil servants by 2014, more property taxes, longer working hours for teachers, privatisation of state entities and the shutting down of state organisations. In return, the euro zone approved another 2.8 billion euros in rescue loans for Greece on Monday (April 28).

The reforms have sent the unemployment rate skyrocketing to 27 percent.

Presented by Adam Justice