HUNDREDS of teachers, local government workers, firefighters and lecturers united in Chester to fight pension cuts as 20,000 children stayed home from school.

Crowds waving flags and placards reading ‘Save our Pensions’ and ‘Hands off our Pensions’ flocked to the town hall to join the national fight against public sector spending cuts.

Children and parents joined the protest drawing colourful slogans on the paving stones with chalk, while retired public sector workers held banners in the first rally in the city for 20 years.

Crowds cheered and clapped as speakers from the National Union of Teachers (NUT), Public and Commercial Services Union (PCS), University and College Union (UCU) and the Education Union (ACT) slated the government cuts as an insult to “a lifetime dedicated to hardwork and the public sector”.

Around 350 people joined the rally on Thursday afternoon, as 43 Cheshire schools closed their gates as teachers abandoned their classrooms and joined the fight at the picket lines.

Addressing the crowds, Greg Foster of Cheshire West NUT said: “Our pensions are not gold plated, they were not handed to us - we fought to gain them.

“We will need to fight if we want to keep them, we will not be the generation to give back the benefits, that is not a shame we want in our hands.

“They are wanting us to work until we are 67 or 68. Do they expect that after working to exhaustion that we will live for another 20 years? This government wants us to retire and then die, saving them a fortune.

“We are all in this together, together in the fight for our lives and united we will win this battle.”

Speakers vowed that they planned to fight the government every step of the way, uniting in a promise to return in the autumn for a mass protest, where they hope to be joined by the headteachers’ union.

Meanwhile around 20,000 children stayed at home after a third of Cheshire schools locked their gates while teachers joined the fight, while 36 partially closed and 80 opened as usual.