OPM has said that its review “is well underway” of policies regarding official time—on the clock time for employees with union roles to perform certain union-related duties–in light of the recent executive order to restrict that time in several ways.
OPM guidance to agencies says the order—which renames official time as “taxpayer-funded union time”—emphasizes that federal employees “should spend the clear majority of their duty hours performing federal business and serving the public.”
The guidance points to the order’s requirements that agencies take the position in bargaining—when contracts hit their end or are reopened mid-term—to limit official time to one hour per bargaining unit employee per year, to bar any employee from being in that status more than a quarter of working hours, and to require prior approval by the agency before it is used.
Official time is of high importance to federal employee unions since they are required to represent all bargaining unit employees yet may not require anyone to pay dues or other fees. That is one of the central arguments in the pending union-sponsored legal challenge to that order.
OPM said that while any further guidance it issues “may offer some more details on these new requirements and restrictions, agencies are reminded of these new EO requirements and restrictions and should make appropriate adjustments on authorization and use of taxpayer-funded union time, at the earliest practicable date permitted by law and subject to appropriate collective bargaining obligations and to the extent consistent with applicable law.”
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“Agencies should take steps to modify [contracts] and other agreements at the soonest permissible opportunity to eliminate unrestricted grants of taxpayer-funded union time and put mechanisms in place that require employees to request and receive specific authorization prior to utilizing taxpayer-funded union time, and agencies should carefully monitor taxpayer-funded union time to ensure that it is used only for authorized purposes,” it said.
“Special attention is required by agencies to monitor any unlawful uses such as internal union business, certain lobbying activities, and political activities,” it added.