Thousands of public servants at the Department of Defence are preparing to walk off the job as the wage dispute between the federal government and its workforce escalates further.
Departments employing more than 87,000 public servants – more than half the Australian Public Service workforce – are now facing industrial action, with staffers saying they are being asked to take effective pay cuts but work longer hours and lose hard-won conditions and entitlements.
But a Defence spokeswoman said on Monday that the department had not even been told yet about any proposed industrial action.
Officials at the 19,000-strong Defence Department are seething after being offered a pay rise worth 1.05 per cent per year over three years in return for a longer working day, the loss of time-off and a slowdown in the rate of progression up the pay scales.
The department's main union, the CPSU, will go to the Fair Work Commission on Tuesday seeking permission to hold a ballot of its members at Defence on strike and other industrial action.
Other unions with members in Defence, Professionals Australia and the AMWU, are also understood to be preparing for strike action over the offer.
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If the commission FWC action is successful, the department will face work bans and the prospect of large numbers of its public servants walking off the job for up to 24 hours at a time.
The government is now facing widespread industrial action in the Australian Public Service as bureaucrats reject deals been offered to them under Employment Minister Eric Abetz's tough public sector bargaining guidelines.
Public Servants at the departments of Human Services, which runs Centrelink and Medicare, Veterans' Affairs, Employment and Agriculture and the Tax Office are either planning or actively taking industrial action.
Scientists and researchers at the CSIRO, which sits outside the APS but is still subject to the bargaining guidelines, have also begun the process for strike action.
Low-level action at the giant Human Services department has been underway since late 2014, including a co-ordinated lunchbreak last week, but department managers told a Senate estimates hearing in Canberra that the actions had left them unmoved and caused little disruption to services.
CPSU national secretary Nadine Flood said civilian Defence workers were "outraged at an insulting offer of 1.05 per cent a year plus cuts to conditions, such as the removal of two days of leave, plus working an extra 3.5 days a year".
"Taking industrial action is always a last resort but Defence staff will be joining their colleagues across the APS in sending a clear message that they are not going to cop this," Ms Flood said.
The union has consistently blamed Senator Abetz's bargaining guidelines for what it says is looming widespread workplace trouble in the public service.
But the minister says that strike action by public servants is irresponsible in pursuit of an unrealistic 4 per cent pay demand.
The Defence Department spokeswoman said on Monday that looming industrial action was news to her.
"Defence has not received notification from the Fair Work Commission regarding a protected action ballot application," she said.