Fedweek

Two more agencies have moved to restrict use of “official time” by federal employees with union roles in light of Trump administration executive orders that are now in full effect following the lifting of a court injunction against those provisions.

The VA has told unions representing its employees that their representatives will now be limited to spending 25 percent of their time on official time status and must spend the rest of their time “performing VA business or necessary training,” an announcement said.

In addition, the VA said it will no longer: “reimburse employees for expenses incurred performing non-agency business, unless required by law or regulation; approve taxpayer-funded union time for lobbying activities, as conducting lobbying activities while on paid time is prohibited for all Department employees; or approve taxpayer-funded union time for preparing or pursuing grievances, including arbitration, on behalf of bargaining unit employees, except where such use is otherwise authorized by law or regulation, or Executive Order.”

The VA further said that by December 13 it will set a dollar figure on the value of all space that unions occupy in its buildings without charge. The unions will have until January 10 “to notify VA of their intent to either vacate or rent each VA space currently occupied. If there is no notice of intent to rent received, VA will consider the lack of notice an intent to vacate” and the unions will have to remove their property from the space and return agency-owned furniture and other items to the VA.

The AFGE union, the largest within the VA, said the move violates the terms of the order stating that policies under contracts are to remain in effect until those contracts expire. “We will pursue any and all legal options at the national and local levels to challenge this illegal activity and preserve employees’ collective bargaining rights,” it said. “In the meantime, AFGE is advising its locals to preserve union records, personnel files, and other important documents in the event they are denied access to union offices.”

Meanwhile, the EEOC has drafted to bar union representatives from using official time to work on EEO complaints government-wide, which would reverse a practice in effect since the early 1970s.