Union bosses earning more than federal MPs
THE controversial CFMMEU Queensland construction branch has recorded its lowest membership since it merged with the BLF five years ago, amid claims tradies are turning their backs on its "extreme and often unlawful tactics".
Despite the falling membership and huge legal bills, it remains cashed up as its $2.9 million surplus is almost double compared with the previous year.
A $600,000 cut in an apprenticeship scheme and juggling legal costs appears to have helped prop up its surplus, analysis of the militant union's financial records shows.
Construction industry bosses pointed to a falling "relevance" and an unwillingness to "get involved in the more extreme and often unlawful tactics".
Industrial Relations Minister Christian Porter said members had a "right to expect that their hard earned money is being used appropriately".
CFMMEU Queensland construction branch membership dropped to 16,313 from 18,135 over the past year - the lowest since the BLF merger in 2015.
The financial report also reveals the top bosses are paid more than Federal MPs, with Michael Ravbar on almost $240,000 a year, president Royce Kupsch earning $234,000 and assistant secretary Jade Ingham on $206,000.
They also have cars provided for them by the union.
The litigation fees of the union increase tenfold over the past year, from $144,000 to more than $1.27 million.
But its overall legal costs dropped as the amount it forked out in fines dropped to $216,000 from more than $2 million, despite being slapped with $900,000 in fines in the 2018 calendar year.
The amount of money spent on an apprenticeship scheme has fell from $4 million to $3.4 million.
The CFMMEU Qld construction branch runs an apprenticeship scheme, which provides a scholarship for the children of union members to be recruited and placed with employers.
It also contributed $1.2 million in its funds towards the ACTU's "change the rules" campaign over the past two years.
The money came from a compulsory levy used to "fight back against attacks on the union by employers, governments and media".
Masters Builders Queensland boss Grant Galvin said unions, like employer organisations, would lose membership if they lost relevance.
"The fact that the CFMMEU in Queensland has lost 10 per cent of its membership in a single year could very well indicate a declining lack of relevance to the average member," he said.
"Alternatively, it could also be explained by an increasing reluctance of members on the tools wanting to get involved in the more extreme and often unlawful tactics used by the CFMMEU."
Mr Porter said the proposed "Proper Use of Workers Benefits" Bill would increase transparency around how members funds were used.
"Members of registered organisations - be it unions or employer groups - have a right to expect that their hard earned money is being used appropriately," he said.
Leading up to this year's Federal election, the construction union's contributions to the Labor party fell from $138,000 to $74,000.
It had a dispute with Labor over its position on Adani, with MPs and candidates warned to pledge support for the controversial mine or be campaigned against.
CFMMEU Queensland construction branch did not respond to request for comment.