Public servants at the Commonwealth's biggest department, Human Services, have smashed a proposed workplace deal with a 74 per cent no-vote in a ballot of the 36,000-strong workforce.
The result is a case of third-time unlucky for bosses at the department, which runs Centrelink, Medicare and the Child Support Agency, who have now seen three rejections of broadly similar proposals that workers fear will strip away basic workplace rights.
The result comes on the heels of a crushing 82 per cent no-vote by public servants at Border Force and the Immigration Department last week of another deal developed under the Coalition's hardline public sector bargaining framework and a rejection by scientists and researchers at the CSIRO of a similar proposal.
Staff at Human Services were told of the result on Monday morning with the department's human resources boss Adrian Hudson indicating there would be no change in approach despite the third failure to convince the department's workers that the deal on offer was in their best interests.
"Now, the department and bargaining representatives will need to consider their next steps," Mr Hudson wrote.
"We are committed to reaching a fair and affordable Agreement within the boundaries of our service delivery requirements, and the Government's bargaining policy.
"The department will continue to bargain in good faith."
The Community and Public Sector Union was quick out of the blocks to say the no-vote was more evidence that the government's approach to bargaining had failed abjectly.
"For workers in the largest Commonwealth agency to vote No to an agreement despite struggling under a three-year pay freeze shows there's something seriously wrong with enterprise bargaining," the union's national secretary Nadine Flood said.
"For them to vote No three times in little more than a year confirms this process is an absolute mess.
"These workers provide public services that are among the most needed and valued by ordinary Australians - Medicare, Centrelink and Child Support - yet they've been forced to fight to hold onto basic workplace rights and conditions, particularly important family-friendly conditions.
"The Government's bargaining policy means it's impossible for DHS staff to be offered a reasonable agreement.
"Instead the policy seeks to starve workers out with a wage freeze.
"It's a nasty tactic hurting DHS staff struggling on modest wages, mostly below the national average."
Across the service, more than 97,000 public servants, from a total workforce of about 150,00 are still without enterprise agreements to replace deals that expired in 2014 and most have not had a payrise since 2013 and the government has banned backpay.
But many workplaces remain defiant with Agriculture Department public servants having now voted three times to reject proposals.
About 5000 public servants at Agriculture will begin voting on Tuesday morning for an unprecedented fourth time.
Two other giant departments, Defence and the Tax Office, with a combined workforce of more than 38,000 public servants, are set to move towards votes soon although the ballots have not yet been scheduled.