The men and women who "keep the lights on" at Canberra's Parliament House are the latest group public servants threatening to walk off the job in the dispute between the Coalition government and much of its workforce.
Unions representing some of the 80-strong Parliament House maintenance workforce are going through the Fair Work process for protected industrial action, saying the deal they have been offered by the Department of Parliamentary Services cuts their take-home pay by more than 17 per cent, a claim rejected by the department.
The row is playing out against the backdrop of the broader, three-year public service dispute with about 100,000 federal government workers still holding out against what unions say are harsh new workplace agreements the Coalition wants to impose on its workforce.
The looming strike action at the nation's Parliament means the government will be embroiled in industrial strife with cleaners and maintenance crews at the Parliament.
Australian Manufacturing Workers Union spokesman Joe McKenzie said the maintenance workers performed a vital role.
"These are the people who literally keep the lights on in the most important building in the country, so if this can be done to them, then it could be done to any workforce," Mr McKenzie said.
The workers include plumbers, fitters, fridge mechanics, gardeners who maintain both the building itself, but also the many machines needed to keep the institution moving every day.
The Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union are also seeking consent to ballot its members who work on maintaining Parliament House on possible strike action.
But Department of Parliamentary Services' spokeswoman Lora Krile says there is a long way to go before any maintenance crews walk off the job on capital hill.
"No industrial action can be taken until the majority of their DPS members vote for industrial action," Ms Krile told Fairfax.
"Further, the AMWU must give DPS at least 3 days' notice before a period of industrial action is taken, as required by the Fair Work Act.
"DPS has contingency plans in place and it is expected there will be minimal impact on the functioning of Australian Parliament House."
Ms Krile also disputed the union's claims that workers were set to lose 17 per cent of their wages.
"The proposed enterprise agreement, which is being offered to all DPS employees, is still being negotiated and DPS has not made a final offer at this time," she said.
"However, the department has indicated to staff that it has identified sufficient savings to offer a conditional per cent pay rise over three years, with 3 per cent on commencement of the proposed agreement, 2 per cent 12 months after commencement; and 1 per cent 24 months after commencement.
"This offer is still subject to negotiation."
A specified group of employees in one area of DPS who work a flexible roster receive a 17 per cent flexibility payment in lieu of shift penalties and a defined amount of work after hours. It is not correct to say AMWU members are facing a 17 per cent cut in their take-home pay as DPS has offered to maintain the 17 per cent payment for existing recipients of the payment in addition to a 6 per cent pay rise averaged over 3 years.