Federal Manager's Daily Report

Use of “official time” by federal employees with union roles grew slightly over 2014-2016 from 2.88 to 2.95 hours per bargaining unit employee, according to OPM,

Over 2014-2016, the estimated cost to agencies rose from $163 million to $175 million, the number of hours rose from 3,468,170 to 3,611,112, and the number of federal employees covered by bargaining units rose by 20,467 to 1,224,160. The numbers exclude the self-funding and more highly unionized USPS.

Even after the increase–which works out to about four minutes per bargaining unit employee–the 2.95-hour average remains below the 3.2-4.4 range of the 1998-2005 period. Over 2006-2010 it averaged about 2.6 hours before climbing into the 2.8-2.9 range in 2011-2014.

Official time is provided by law for federal employees to perform certain union duties, such as bargaining–but not others, such as recruiting–during working hours. Allowable amounts commonly are negotiated into labor-management contracts, and the amounts used can vary substantially, depending for example on whether a major contract is up for renegotiation.

However, the policy has been targeted for years by some Republican members of Congress and other conservatives as a subsidy to unions. Unions–and Democrats generally–view official as a tradeoff for the obligation to represent all bargaining unit members regardless of whether they pay dues.