Thousands of federal employees are likely spending 100 percent of their time performing union activities instead of the work they were hired to do, according to a report from the Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI).
Federal employees are allowed to use work hours for collective bargaining, impasse proceedings and additional union-related activity under a practice known as “official time.” CEI, a libertarian think tank, reported that according to the most recent available data, official time cost taxpayers at least $162.5 million during the 2014 fiscal year.
“Official time is an unnecessary subsidy to federal employee unions that serves the interests of unions and their members, not the public,” Travis Kovacs, CEI’s labor policy expert, told The Daily Caller News Foundation Wednesday. “The taxpayer does not receive any direct benefit or any discernible consideration in return for the cost of official time.”
The most recent data revealed that federal employees spent 3.4 million hours on union business in 2014. The report compiled publicly available information from the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) as well as through the Freedom of Information Act.
The group cautioned that OPM’s numbers are an estimate and a poor measurement. The Government Accountability Office said the same in a 2014 report, claiming that action was needed to improve tracking and reporting on the use and cost of official time.
CEI said the official cost to taxpayers was closer to $200 million when factoring in the cost of office space and supplies as well as a 15 percent increase to adjust for OPM’s flawed methodology.
Two pieces of legislation that would address concerns regarding the government’s official time policies have been floated in Congress. Georgia Republican Rep. Jody Hice introduced the Official Time Reform Act of 2017 that would prohibit lobbying on behalf of federal employee unions on official time.
Florida Republican Rep. Dennis Ross introduced a resolution that would require detailed reports on official time. Currently, OPM releases an official time use once every two years, and the requirements are not always enforced in a timely manner.
“Federal employees should exclusively perform the public duties they were hired to do,” Kovacs said. CEI and others have called on Congress to eliminate official time laws, which were implemented in 1978 as part of the Civil Service Reform Act.
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