Congress, White House Address Official Time

In recent weeks, Congress has increasingly begun asking questions about the use of official time within federal agencies, as noted by Federal News Radio’s Nicole Ogrysko.

Official time is “time spent by federal employees performing representational work for a bargaining unit in lieu of their regularly assigned work,” according to OPM.

In light of new executive orders from the White House seeking to address the use of official time, Congressional Republicans and Democrats alike have expressed that they feel they have too little data to be able to make helpful determinations.

“I’m prepared to work with my Republican friends in trying to have more accurate data so we know what we’re dealing with,” said Congressman Gerry Connolly (D-VA). “That’s a totally fair point. But it has to work both ways. It can’t just be about the cost of the official time itself and how we calculate it. It also [has] to be some estimate of the benefits. What is the dollar value of the benefits?”

In the same hearing before the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, Committee Chairman Mark Meadows (R-NC) expressed disappointment at the inability of a witness representing AFGE, one of the largest federal employee unions, to quantify federal employees’ use of official time.

“At the same time, we have to have some kind of matrix to figure out who is being accountable and who is not,” Meadows said. “According to your testimony, it’s a good thing, and we need to understand when it’s a good thing and when it’s not.”

Last Friday, the Trump Administration announced new executive orders. Among the effects of the executive orders are a cut to official time, which, according to the New York Times, “limits official time to 25 percent of” federal employees’ hours during the year. The administration claims that “a subset of federal employees had been able to spend as much as 100 percent of their duty hours on union business.”

 

Posted in From the Hill

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