Fedweek

The share of federal employees represented by unions fell by about 19,000, about 1.5 percent, over 2012-2014 but the amount of “official time” that unions used in representing them grew slightly, from 2.81 to 2.88 hours per employee, OPM has reported. Employees with union roles spent 3,468,000 hours on official time during 2014, at a cost in salary and benefits of $162,523,000–up 3.4 percent. At the outset of the Obama administration in 2009 the usage rate was 2.58 hours per represented employee; however, even the 2014 rate was well below that of 2002, the first year reported in the Bush administration, when the average per employee was 4.21 hours. As in prior years, the rate varied among agencies–it was above 7 hours per employee at Broadcasting Board of Governors, Justice, NLRB, Railroad Retirement Board and HUD–in some cases due to major contract negotiations being conducted. Official time is one of the main points of dispute in federal labor-management. Unions argue that it is a form of compensation to them for their duty to represent bargaining unit members who do not pay dues, while some members of Congress argue that paid time should be used only for official business. Legislation is advancing in the House to require a fuller accounting of official time, including the numbers of employees who spend most or all of their working hours on official time. Also pending are bills to ban or limit official time for those in certain high-demand occupations or to limit crediting of time spent on official time toward retirement benefits.