ACTIVISTS rallied behind striking firefighters in Swindon as they protested against a government move to raise retirement age and increase pension contributions.

Swindon People’s Assembly joined picketers outside Drove Road Fire Station yesterday, offering them homemade cakes, as they took a stand against what they described as unfair and unsafe plans.

The Fire Brigades Union launched fresh strike action on Saturday last week. Since then, members have been leaving their posts for three hours every day and will continue to do so until the weekend.

Kate Linnegar, a member of Swindon People’s Assembly, said: “We thought we ought to come down and show our support.

“When people go for jobs they look at things like what pensions they are going to get and the retirement age. These people signed up to a job and to have all this taken away from them is completely wrong. It’s a life plan and they are trying to take it away.

“I think we should support them in making a stand. If we let the Government get away with this, what else are they going to start chipping away at?”

The first round of industrial action began last year following a dispute over government plans to increase the amount of pension contributions to £4,000 a year and raise the retirement age from 55 to 60.

The union and coalition failed to reach an agreement despite several attempts at negotiations.

Firefighter Andy Thompson said: “Support from the public has been really well received by firefighters.

“We are very grateful for the support.

“Everybody realises that we don’t want to strike. But we are being forced into it by the Government. We are not asking for anything extra; we just want what we signed up for.”

The FBU branch representative for Chippenham added: “There is an issue of capability. This plan will make firefighters work until they are 60, when it’s unsafe not only for firefighters but the public they serve.

“Who wants to be rescued by a 60-year-old firefighter? It’s unworkable.

“The Government has been dragging its heels for a long time.

“There is now a new fire minister and we can only hope that the Government see sense.”