Federal employee paid time for union activities cost $156M in 2011


The federal government paid roughly $156 million in payroll costs, salary and benefits for time federal employees spent on union activities in fiscal 2011, up 11.9 percent from the prior year, according to the Office of Personnel Management.

In a report released Feb. 15, OPM said that time spent on approved union-related activities, known as official time, rose during fiscal 2011 by 9.7 percent and the official time spent per employee increased from 2.61 hours each to 2.82 hours each.

In total, official time spent by covered employees accounted for nearly 3.4 million hours and cost roughly 0.1 percent of the overall federal salary and benefits costs.

The agency said factors contributing to the rise in hours and costs include an increase in the number of employees represented by unions, increased collective bargaining in some large agencies, the use of labor-management forums and greater agency efforts for "accurately documenting official time compared to previous years."

More than 1.2 million non-Postal Service employees were represented by unions in fiscal 2011, an increase of roughly 1.4 percent compared to fiscal 2010.

The report calls official time a core component of the federal government's collective bargaining system. The time allows for representation tasks only, such as union activities that present members with workplace information or when representing workers in grievances. The agency says it does not cover internal union business like union elections or conventions.

On Dec. 9, 2009, President Obama signed an executive order that said allowing employees and their union representatives a forum and time "to discuss government operations will promote satisfactory labor relations and improve the productivity and effectiveness" of the federal government. It says these labor-management forums would help address workplace disputes and would complement the existing collective bargaining process.

For more:
- read the new OPM report
- see the 2009 executive order 13522

Related Articles:
Union membership declines among federal workers
Mail carriers get pay bump under union deal
Agencies tasked with domestic violence planning