Taxpayers spent a total of $157 million in 2012 paying federal employees to do union work rather than their actual jobs, according to a government report.
In a process known as “official time,” many working for the federal government were able to spend a total of 3.4 million hours doing work for their labor unions and not the job they were originally hired to do, according to the Washington Examiner. In comparison, in the year prior, only $1.6 million and 44,000 hours were used for official time.
Official time allows federal worker, who also hold union leadership positions to engage in union-related activities outside their normal jobs, such as contract negotiations and workplace grievances, while still getting paid.
The report, released by the Office of Personnel Management, found the biggest spender for official time was the Department of Veterans Affairs, which reported it paid $46.9 million for workers to do union-related work in 2012, up from $42.6 million the year before.
Also listed in the report were the Social Security Administration, which paid $10.9 million in official time, up from $9.9 million the previous year and the Department of Homeland Security, which paid $8.1 million, up from $7.8 million the previous year among others.
The report also found that some agencies have decreased official time including the Treasury Department, which paid $25.4 million in official time, down from $27.3 million the previous year and the Defense Department, which paid $13.5 million, down from $14 million the previous year.
Jackie Simon, policy director for the American Federation of Government Employees, told the Washington Examiner that it may not be completely clear how official time is being used because the term is flexible and can be applied to any union-related activity “so long as the agency and the union agree that the amount of time is reasonable, necessary and in the public interest.”
“You missed the point of the report if the only thing you got out of it was the percentage increase. I think there has been a concerted effort on the part of unions and the agency management to improve morale and productivity,” Simon also noted. “The administration has made a point of enhancing employee engagement.”
Matt Patterson, executive director for the Center for Worker Freedom, told the Washington Examiner the relationship between public-sector unions and federal agencies was suspect at best.
“People are under the impression that tax dollars go to pay public employees to do public business, but that’s not always so,” Patterson said. “It all amounts to a huge public payoff from elected officials to their Big Labor campaign contributors.”
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