Civil servants have been asked by the Home Office to work as border-control officers during next week's one-day strike against public-sector pension reform, it emerged last night.
Selected groups of government employees have been contacted to ask whether they are willing to walk through picket lines and check passports as passengers arrive at airports and ports next Wednesday. The move comes just weeks after it emerged that checks on visa nationals from outside Europe had been regularly suspended at Heathrow because of staff shortages.
The move is part of contingency plans being drawn up across Whitehall to deal with the effects of the mass walkout of public-sector workers over pension reform. A government source said any recruits would be restricted to checking British passports and other "low-risk work".
About 18,000 immigration officials could join the strike next week, a month before the deadline for a deal between the Government and union leaders on pension reform.
An estimated three million public-sector workers, including teachers, council workers and probation officers, are expected to strike.
A UK Border Agency spokesman said: "The security of the UK border remains our top priority and we will explore all options to ensure we minimise any disruption caused by planned union action." The spokesman stressed that all staff would be given "the necessary level of training" needed for the tasks they were given.