OPM: FY 2016 Official Time Report Highlighting Taxpayer Funded Union Time

Press Release – May 17, 2018
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, the U.S. Office of Personnel Management published its FY 2016 Official Time Report “Official Time Usage in the Federal Government – Fiscal Year 2016” to provide an overview of Taxpayer Funded Union Time within the Federal government.

During FY 2016, unions represented 1,224,160 non-Postal Federal civil service bargaining unit employees, an increase of approximately 1.70 percent or 20,467 bargaining unit employees compared to FY 2014.   Agencies reported that bargaining unit employees spent a total of 3,611,112 hours performing representational duties on official time, an increase of 4.12 percent compared to FY 2014. Governmentwide, the number of official time hours used per bargaining unit employee on representational matters increased from 2.88 hours in FY 2014 to 2.95 hours during FY 2016.

“Official time”, more accurately referred to as “Taxpayer Funded Union Time” is paid time spent by Federal employees performing representational work for a bargaining unit in lieu of their regularly assigned work. In other words, official time is treated as work time, thus is funded by the American taxpayers while no service to the taxpayer is performed.

We estimate that the total taxpayer funded costs for official time hours used by bargaining unit employees increased over a two year period by 7.55 percent; from approximately $162.5 million in fiscal year 2014 to approximately $174.8 million in fiscal year 2016.

In addition, we estimate that the total official time hours across the government increased over a two year period from 3,468,170 in FY 2014 to 3,611,112 in FY 2016; an increase of 4.12 percent or 142,942 hours. The average number of official time hours used per bargaining unit employee rate increased over a two year period from 2.88 hours in FY 2014 to 2.95 hours in FY 2016.

Problems regarding use of official time have a real life impact. Here are just two examples at the Veteran’s Affairs Department (VA):

  • A Registered Nurse (RN) who worked in a VA clinic was elected to a local union position that received 50% Taxpayer Funded Union Time. While the RN is performing union representational duties, there is no one to cover her clinic duties. The RN routinely schedules union time during the busiest clinic times, on the busiest days. The result is longer wait times for veteran patients and numerous rescheduling of appointments.
  • A RN paid at the VA wage scale of Nurse III was elected as a local union official who receives 100% taxpayer funded union time. As a 100% union official, the RN continues to receive Nurse III pay although they no longer provide medical care to patients and do not maintain a nursing license. The VA cannot use this employee in her capacity as a nurse because it requires ongoing credentialing and clinical skills certification. If this RN loses a future union election or steps down from the union position, the facility is obligated to retain the employee but unable to employ the RN in any nursing role without months of retraining and recertification.

OPM Director Jeff T.H. Pon says, “The data shows that Taxpayer Funded Union Time is at a steady increase. This Administration is passionate about protecting hardworking Americans and the use of their tax dollars. OPM will continue exploring opportunities to identify useful practices for monitoring and reporting on the use of official time and sharing these practices with agencies across the government to assist agencies in strengthening internal controls and increasing transparency, accountability, and accuracy.”


Source: U.S. Office of Personnel Management

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