Public service minister Michaelia Cash says she is surprised by a move by Border Force public servants to walk off the job for 24 hours next month.
Travellers through Australia's airports face a day of misery as Border Force, Immigration and Agriculture public servants dramatically escalate strike action as part of their wage dispute with the federal government.
Union members at the Immigration Department, including the controversial Australian Border Force, will walk off the job for 24 hours on Monday, November 9 in a move that threatens a day of chaos for the nation's international gateways.
The action will involve border officers who check arrival cards and passports and those carrying out customs inspections and screening and other airport duties.
Agriculture department officials, who are also in a pay dispute, will stop work on inspections and screening of international freight and parcels in the days leading up to the big airport action.
Senator Cash said the main workplace union behind the strike would have been better off negotiating than striking.
"I am surprised that the CPSU has decided to go on strike rather than sitting down with the Department and negotiating a new enterprise agreement using the flexibility provided by the Government's revised bargaining policy," the minister said.
The one-day stoppage on November 9 is designed by the Community and Public Sector Union to make it difficult for the Department of Immigration and Border Protection to keep things moving through airports by moving public servants around the country in what it calls "surge deployments".
The co-ordinated action, at all the nation's international airports, is a major escalation from the relatively small two-hour walk-offs seen in September, which occurred at one location at a time.
The union's national secretary, Nadine Flood, says that members working on front-line national security duties will not join in the strike action but that the impact of the action on the travelling public is expected to be "significant".
"It is disappointing that we have to do this and we do expect some significant impact for international passengers and business," Ms Flood said.
"We expect Border Force to continue their expensive and heavy-handed tactic of flying managers around the country to act as strike breakers."
Despite wage talks for most of the Commonwealth's 150,000 public servants being deadlocked for more than a year, the union leader said there was still time to avert the nationwide strike.
"We're ready to talk at any point about resolving this dispute. I will get on a plane any time, anywhere to continue discussions with government," Ms Flood said.
"Unfortunately, while government has come back to the negotiating table, minister Michaelia Cash's decision to raise the pay offer to 2 per cent doesn't compensate for the raft of conditions that workers are losing."
The Department of Immigration and Border Protection did not respond to questions before deadline on Thursday.
Senator Cash's office was also contacted for comment.
Border Force staff staged rolling two-hour stoppages across 10 days in late September causing moderate delays to travellers at international airports.
They were joined by officials in Centrelink and Medicare and workers at the Australian Taxation Office, Australian Bureau of Statistics, Defence Department, Department of Veterans Affairs, Environment Department and Employment Department, who are all in dispute with the government.
A decision, announced by Senator Cash this month, to allow departments to offer 2 per cent pay rises instead of the 1.5 per cent previously on the table, looks unlikely to break the impasse.
Former Customs officials who have transferred to Border Force are among the most militant of the potential strikers, faced with the loss of up to $8000 in allowances and extra payments in their new roles.