"The state Labor government's failure to honor its promise to pay $55.4 million in reparations to Indigenous stolen wages claimants [is] incomprehensible", Queensland Council of Unions (QCU) general secretary Ron Monaghan said in an August 19 statement.
Premier Anna Bligh's government has indicated that the $21 million not already distributed to claimants from a fund specifically established for that purpose would be diverted into a newly created fund to provide education scholarships to Aboriginal youth.
While the scheme has broad support, Monaghan said it should not use money earmarked to repay workers.
"[This] is a wage justice issue", said Monaghan. "For the better part of the last century, successive Queensland governments failed to trust Indigenous workers with their wages. Now the government is taking money set aside to pay ... those workers who had their wages stolen ... the Bligh government is repeating the mistakes of the past", Monaghan said.
At a stolen wages campaign meeting on August 29, QCU Indigenous industrial officer Kara Touchie confirmed that the state government had agreed to extend the claim process until January 31, 2009, but QCU is still demanding the standard of evidence for claims to be made more equitable, and for full distribution of the $55 million fund.
One Aboriginal claimant told the meeting, "We only want what is rightfully ours. They stole it, and now they should return it." For more information about the campaign, phone Kara on 0437 534 002.