As traffic goes by the picket line outside the Post Office CIT Depot near Oldham Street in Manchester, cars are tooting their horns in support of a 24 hours strike to save the People's Post.
It's from this depot that all Post Office services in Salford and beyond are delivered – the cash that pays benefits and pensions, the high value mail and more. Two thirds of the staff here are being laid off, services are being cut and employees' pensions are being slashed, while there's the increasing spectre of privatisation.
"We feed everything for the Post Office to make it run properly on a day to day basis" says Mark Worthington, from Salford and the CWU union rep for Manchester "It's a highly secure job that we do. These are the guys who go across the pavement with helmets on and take the risk of being shot at, or attacked with machetes - and it happens here more than other places – but the Post Office is saying they're paying them too much."
There's all sorts of things happening which have led to today's strike. At this depot, staff are being axed because external contracts to handle cash from private companies like Aldi and Spirit pubs are being stopped, despite management getting those `bad contracts' in the first place. And for those remaining, pensions are being slashed from `final salary' to `contribution defined' which one worker said would lose him £4,000 a year on retirement.
"They're doing a Philip Green on our pensions basically, and it's the Government that are behind all of this" Mark explains "There's a severe amount of honesty required in this job. We're all good honest working class lads, and what we wanted was to get to 60 or 65 and know that we've got a reasonable pension at the end of it. But no more. They're battering our pensions."
Elsewhere, those Crown Post Offices that are still left, like Salford Precinct, are increasing under threat, with many shutting over the past few years to be replaced by `franchised' counters in shops.
"You go into WH Smiths now and they've got a post office, and what they've done is called it `franchising' but it's another word for privatisation" says Mark "These guys started out working for the Post Office, a big national institution, but are now finding themselves as WH Smith employees, getting TUPE'd over."
Giving the national picture, Dave Ward, General Secretary of the CWU, states: "Showing greater concern for the commercial interests of potential buyers than the future of a public service, the Government split the Post Office from Royal Mail in 2012. This kept it in public ownership while the Royal Mail was privatised, fattening up a successful business the Government went on to sell at a knockdown price.
"While the Post Office faced the challenges of being separated from the profitable mail business, the Government also decided to start systematically scaling back the Post Office's public funding" he adds "With no strategy to grow its revenues, the cost-cutting has had predictable results..."
The `predictable results' are the running down of the Post Office's community assets and the adverse affect on staff...
"We're all gutted at the way they are treating the service at the moment - you've got people on pensions and benefits in the inner city area who need a post office and need to have cash" Mark explains "Also, I come to work to feed my family and have a better life, like everyone else, but they're cutting and cutting and cutting and I'm finding myself working longer and longer hours to try and maintain my lifestyle..."
This 24 hour strike is about defending the People's Post Office, those who work in it and those who rely on it...