BBC Home
Explore the BBC


Teachers: Citizenship:

Last Updated: Thursday September 17 2009 15:00 GMT


Citizenship KS2/KS3/Levels E&F
Legal rights

A shut postbox


Postmen and women have been on strike. They haven't been going to work because they're protesting about how much they are getting paid and also that jobs where they work are being cut.

Read a news story about the protests, answer a quick quiz on strikes and critically review comments from the Newsround website.

Learning aims
  • Laws cover industrial disputes
  • Meaning of: Strike, trade union and picket line
  • Moral issues facing strikers


Read out the following story about the impact of the strike.

Find out what the group already knows about strikes by reading out these true or false statements. Explanations are given for each of the answers.

Any worker that wants to can go on strike.
[A] False: People doing certain jobs are banned from striking. This is the case for the military, police and prison officers.

Strikes are organised by the unions.
[B] False: Official strikes are organised by unions but there are also wildcat or unofficial strikes started by workers.

Workers have a legal right to form a union that represents their interests.
[C] True: When you start work the law allows that you may become a union member and you are allowed time off for union duties.

Trade union leaders may call strikes whenever they want.
[D] False: To go on strike the union must follow a set of rules, otherwise the strike may be illegal. There will need to be ballots of the membership and notice given to the employer.

Strikers can prevent other people from going to work.
[E] False: Strikers can set up a picket line at their workplace. This means standing outside and trying to persuade people not to go to work. Explaining their dispute is OK but pickets may not prevent others from working.

The March 2006 strike about teachers' pension rights was the biggest ever in Britain.
[F] False: The biggest strike in UK history was the General Strike of 1926. Two million workers went on strike for nine days in support of the miners. The strike brought the country to a virtual standstill.

Main activity

The right to strike

Airline pilots on strike

Read out a selection of these comments. They were submitted by young people to CBBC Newsround Online during the 2002 firefighter strike. They are getting a little old now, but I think they're still good to use as the issues about public safety seem to engage kids. To what extent do students agree with the opinions expressed?

[A] I think that firefighters shouldn't be asking for a pay rise. They chose that job and they knew how much they would be getting paid. They maybe putting their lives at risk but it is their choice. My dad does not get paid half as much as what they do so they shouldn't really be complaining.
Stacey ,14, Westgate, Kent

[B] I think they probably do deserve a little more money, but striking like this is not the right way to try and get it. Hundreds of peoples' lives are being put at risk all over the country because of them.
Annabel, 11, Amersham

[C] I do not think that the firefighters can justify a 40% pay rise as that is much more than everyone else gets. The increase would mean they earned much more than other professions. My parents earn less than £25,000 a year together and we manage fine. I would not say that one of my parents needs to earn £30,000 for us to live on. An experienced full-time nurse gets less than fire fighters already but they do not complain but continue to do their job and care for the community.
Louise, 15, Ashwater, Devon

[D] I agree with the firefighters because they go around risking their lives to save us yet they get paid peanuts, so I say go for it.
Michael, 12, Telford

[E] I think that the firefighters are wrong to strike. They are putting innocent people at risk by striking. Three people are now dead, and may not have been if the firefighters hadn't been striking. I will have to wait for a minimum of 30 minutes before an army fire engine will reach me. My house could be burnt down by then.
William, 10, Cookstown

[F] I think firefighters are right. They are not getting enough money, because David Beckham gets £80,000 per week. All he does is kick a ball around for 90 minutes when firefighters risk their lives every time they go out. Give the firefighters their money!
Joshua, 12, Telford

[G] I believe that firefighters deserve much more money than they already get. My dad is a firefighter and I know that they risk their own lives everyday to save other people. They have to work for five years just to get their pay up to £21,500 a year. When was the last time that the government had to go on strike to get a pay rise?
Richard, 14, Garforth

You can print more comments from the page Should workers have the right to strike?

Students draft a speech to last only one minute. It should explain their personal view on strikes and be designed to persuade others.

Extension activity

Resolving disputes

Storyboard an imaginary dispute between members of a favourite football team or pop band.

  • What would they argue about?
  • How could developing a set of rules help resolve the problem?


How could workplace disputes be settled without strikes?
Prompt: Better dialogue, works' councils, employee share ownership etc.

Teachers' Background

From day one of your employment you are entitled by law to the following:

  • An itemised pay statement
  • 18 weeks maternity leave
  • No discrimination on the basis of sex, race or disability
  • Time off for public duties
  • Time off for trade union duties
  • No victimisation for trade union activity

Most recent lesson plan

Video clips for teachers
Student quizzes
Educational games
Citizenship guides