More than 10,000 public servants at the Immigration Department voted overwhelmingly to reject a pay offer after a "difficult and divisive" merger with Customs and the formation of the Australian Border Force, according to the main workplace union.
The controversial wage deal offered to 13,500 public servants at the Department of Immigration and Border Protection has been crushed in an all-staff ballot, with 91 per cent of voters rejecting the deal.
Following the ballot, which drew an 82 per cent turnout, the Community and Public Sector Union came out swinging, saying the outcome reflected the "mess" new Public Service Minister Michaelia Cash had inherited in the Australian Public Service.
DIBP's workers, many of whom are currently engaged in disruptive strike action around the nation's airports, were offered 3.4 per cent over three years – one of the lowest offers in the public service. Customs officers who have transferred to the Border Force will be hit hardest by the loss of allowances and entitlements.
The massive no vote, following emphatic rejections of pay deals at other departments, underlines the challenge facing Ms Cash in trying to resolve the industrial stalemate between the government and most of its 150,000 public servants.
The Immigration ballot was dogged by technical glitches on its opening day, as the voting system froze and crashed while thousands of public servants tried to cast their votes.
Announcing the result to the workforce, Deputy Secretary Jill Charker said she and her colleagues would have to conduct a survey to piece together what went wrong.
An official spokeswoman said the department accepted the will of its workforce.
"We understand the sentiment of the workforce as expressed by the significant no vote," she said.
"We of course respect our staff and seek to recognise and reward their hard work.
"The rejection of the EA by departmental staff means we will return to the bargaining table with staff and their representatives.
"We will do what we can to restructure the offer and work in good faith to provide the best offer possible."
Most of the department's workforce would continue to be paid under the existing enterprise agreement, which expired in mid-2014, while some former Customs officials would continue to work under the temporary arrangements put in place for the merger.
CPSU national secretary Nadine Flood said on Tuesday that the vote was another blow to the government's "draconian" wage policy towards its public servants.
"Minister Cash has inherited a mess across Commonwealth government agencies, with workers rejecting this draconian bargaining policy," Ms Flood said.
"More than 10,000 Border Protection workers have said no to an unfair agreement that cut the take-home pay of many staff by $8000 a year or more.
"The creation of Border Force through this merger of Customs and Immigration has been difficult and divisive.
"What we've seen today is this workforce coming together to reject a fundamentally flawed agreement.
"This result shows that even middle managers who are being pushed to act as strike breakers in this dispute must have voted strongly to reject this agreement."