Workforce

OPM orders agencies to report 'official time' data

Feds rally outside a Washington, D.C. courthouse where a union lawsuit is being tried. Photo credit: Chase Gunter 

Unionized feds rally outside a Washington, D.C. courthouse on July 25, 2018. (Photo credit: Chase Gunter)

Office of Personnel Management Director Dale Cabaniss directed agency heads to report on the amount of time federal employees spent on "taxpayer-funded union business" during Fiscal Year 2019.

In an Oct. 23 memo, Cabaniss told agencies that under an executive order from May 2018, agencies were required to track the amount of federal work time that was spent on union business – so-called official time -- and ensure that it was only used for authorized purposes.

The order specified that not more than 25% of an employee's time be spent on union activities. The order does not have an effect on official time agreements in existing union contracts, but essentially instructs agencies to limit the use of official time in new contract negotiations.

The workforce orders took effect after a judicial injunction was lifted Oct. 4. Prior to that, a federal court ruling had barred full implementation of the orders pending the outcome of legal challenges. A federal appeals court eventually ruled that an overarching lawsuit against the orders was not appropriate under federal law and that challenges must original with the Federal Labor Relations Authority.

The OPM chief's memo directed agency and department heads to collect information pertaining to time spent in contract negotiation, labor-management conflict resolution, expenses related to union activities, the amount of time that each employee spent on union activities, and the compensation and job title associated with each employee who engaged in union business during work hours. Agency heads were required to submit their reports by Jan. 31, 2020, and OPM hoped to publish its own report by June 2020.

About the Author

Lia Russell is a staff writer and associate editor at FCW covering the federal workforce. Before joining FCW, she worked as a freelance labor reporter in San Francisco for outlets such SF Weekly, The American Prospect and The Baffler. Russell graduated with a bachelor's degree from Bard College.

Contact Lia at lrussell@fcw.com and follow her on Twitter at @LiaOffLeash.


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