METAL workers are paying more than $200 a month to cover the cost of medical insurance, a sign of growing anxiety over a potentially disruptive labour dispute that has sparked an unprecedented wave of strikes.
The average METAL worker will be paying $21.50 per month for their policy, according to a report from the Australian Council of Trade Unions.
The increase comes as more than 1,400 METALs have gone on strike since Monday.
About 30,000 workers are currently in a strike against pay and conditions, while another 15,000 are striking over unfair dismissal.
The union says the rise in premiums is due to the escalating costs of the strike, which has also hit health care, education and training.
“The union has a concern about the increase in premiums and it is impacting our ability to provide healthcare to our members,” a spokesman for the union, David Lippens, said.
“We are asking for the Government to allow the union to negotiate with the Government about the increased premiums.”
Labor has promised to table legislation that would make it easier for METALers to strike.
Labor’s trade spokesman Richard Marles said he believed the union had the ability to negotiate the price.
“If there is an increase in the costs of healthcare, it’s not a problem with METAL, it is a problem of METAL being able to negotiate higher wages and a fairer deal for our members, which will benefit our economy,” Mr Marles told ABC Radio.
“I think there is a real opportunity to improve our pay and our conditions for METALS workers.”‘
We have to stop the war’The METAL strike has hit the mining industry hard, with production down more than 60 per cent in the past year.
Industry experts have warned the strike will not be able to be contained if the government does not act.
“It’s not going to stop until we can get a deal with the government that’s fair and equitable,” Dr Steven Fauci, president of the Australian Institute of Mining, told the ABC.
“That’s what the METAL strikes are all about, it could not be any worse for our industry.”
But there’s no point in making any further progress if we’re going to continue to have a war.
“Dr Fauici also warned that the strike could be “unimaginable” without the Government agreeing to “stop the war”.”
The METL strike has already cost the economy hundreds of millions of dollars in lost output, so this will not just hurt the industry, but it will also be a blow to the Government and its economy,” he said.