Stolen Wages

Unions pursue indigenous stolen wages

AAP, August 19, 2009 - 8:50AM

BRISBANE, Aug 19 AAP - Legal action will begin in Queensland's District
Court today to recover unpaid wages on behalf of indigenous workers who were underpaid for decades.

The court action on behalf of Yarrabah man Uncle Conrad Yeatman has the
support of the Queensland Council of Unions (QCU).

Mr Yeatman worked as a carpenter and labourer and had his wages withheld
from him since he began work at age 14.

In 2002 then premier Peter Beattie estimated that Aboriginal workers could have been ripped off by up to $500 million.

The Beattie government offered $55 million in compensation.

However, even that amount has not yet been paid in full, leaving the Bligh
government subject to criticism from the union movement.

"This government cannot even honour its promise to pay this amount to these workers," said QCU general secretary Ron Monaghan.

"Even though the government re-opened the Stolen Wages Reparation Scheme last year, they still siphoned-off over $20 million into an education fund for indigenous children," Mr Monaghan said.

He said the union movement did not oppose the fund, but it should not have been established using workers' money.

Mr Monaghan said the $55.4 million set aside for compensation to repair the damage inflicted on workers whose wages were stolen, and it should be used for that purpose.

"All we are asking is that the government come good on its promise to pay
these workers what was promised to them," Mr Monaghan said.

Like many other Mr Yeatman refused earlier offers of compensation, believing them to be only tokens of what was owed.