FIREFIGHTERS across the borough took to the picket line as part of a 24-hour strike against proposed changes to pensions began.

The walk-out is the latest move in a three-year long row with the government — but it is the longest protest since the dispute began.

The Fire Brigades Union is angry about the changes the government is planning to make to pension plans, which the union says could result in firefighters having to work past the age of 60 or face a reduced pension package.

Concerns have been raised about the safety implications of 60-year-olds facing strenuous situations on the job.

The FBU also claims the government is refusing to publish alternative proposals on pensions, which they believe could help to resolve the issue.

Crews formed a picket at Bolton Central station during yesterday (THUR) morning, before travelling to Manchester to join other brigades in a mass protest.

Watch manager Ian Reed said: “I am sick and tired of the big people picking on the little people.

“We are all getting stuck in and showing solidarity against the government’s plans, we are employed by the public taxpayer and so by not looking after us, they are not looking after the public.

“Everyone is interested in our pay, in our situation but we should look at others people because there is crookedness and greediness everywhere.”

During the strike, emergency crews were used to provide cover and were called on to deal with a sparking electricity pole in Westhoughton as well as a chip pan fire in Farnworth.

Responding to the latest action, the Department for Communities and Local Government insisted that the pension deal on the table is fair.

A spokesman added: “The government believes a solution can be reached, but not under the shadow of industrial action, which only serves to damage firefighters’ good standing with the public. By disrupting constructive discussions and an open consultation in this way the FBU has once again shown it is not serious about finding a resolution.”

Another round of industrial action will take place on Saturday, June 21, between 10am and 5pm.