Hundreds of military personnel are being drafted in to help with the largest UK strike for 12 years this Wednesday.
On the day of widespread industrial action across several sectors – dubbed “Walkout Wednesday” – more than half a million teachers, civil servants and frontline workers will go on strike over pay and conditions.
Contingency plans being drawn up by ministers and officials include a request for 600 soldiers and more than 100 civil servants to fill in for Border Force staff who will strike for 24 hours until 7am on Thursday.
However, the secondment of civil servants coincides with a walkout by staff at 11 Whitehall departments and dozens of quangos who are members of the PCS union.
The biggest disruption is expected to be the strike by 300,000 teachers in schools across England and Wales. Ministers want schools to stay open to provide a safe place for children, but this demand is unlikely to be met with so many teachers on strike.
It is the biggest single day of industrial action since two million public sector workers staged a walkout in 2011.
A total of 100,000 members of the PCS union, covering mainly Whitehall departments and public sector organisations, will be on strike, while an estimated 70,000 university staff, 61,000 rail workers, 2,000 bus drivers and 1,000 Border Force staff are expected to join the industrial action on Walkout Wednesday.
Government departments affected by the strikes include the Home Office, Education, Health and Social Care, Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, Levelling Up, Transport, Work and Pensions, International Trade, Culture, Media and Sport, Cabinet Office, and Wales Office.
Staff at Kew Gardens, the British Museum, the National Archives, National Galleries of Scotland, and National Museums Liverpool are also walking out. Kew said it intended to stay open as normal as there would be minimal disruption to its frontline staffing, while there will be a reduced service at the National Archives.
The Prime Minister’s official spokesman said: “As far as I’m aware on the Civil Service side, I think obviously there will be some impacts but I’m not aware of there being wholesale issues across the entire service at this stage.”
A Government spokesperson said: “Ever since these strikes were threatened, the Government has been preparing to do all it can to mitigate any disruption caused and we have extensive contingency plans in place.
“Of course, the best mitigation would be for union bosses to call off planned strikes, to keep talking and to come to an agreement.”
Military personnel and Civil Service volunteers have been trained to cover for Border Force staff at all UK airports and ports ahead of Wednesday, in a repeat of the assistance during the first strike last month.
Travellers and road hauliers have been warned to face significant disruption at pinch points at Heathrow and border controls at Calais and in northern France.
Hauliers bringing goods into the UK have been told they face even longer queues than normal at ports and inland border facilities.
The Government is pressing ahead with its controversial anti-strikes legislation, which went through its remaining stages in the Commons last night.