House Panel Struggles with Official Time
Thursday, February 16, 2017
Washington, D.C. – Today, the House Subcommittee on Government Operations and the Subcommittee on Economic Opportunity held a hearing on the federal government’s tracking and use of Official Time, a provision in the law that allows federal employees to promote efficiency, safety, and cost-saving measures to management through the representation of rank-and file workers who normally may not have a voice. The official time provision was codified into law under the Civil Service Reform Act of 1978, allowing federal employees to represent and address the workplace concerns of collective bargaining unit members through official channels.
“Official time is an important tool in the federal toolbox that is used exclusively by federal agencies to effectively address deficiencies and productivity issues, and provide assistance for the resolution of grievances and negotiations related to working conditions,” stated Randy Erwin, National President of the National Federation of Federal Employees.
The law explicitly prohibits the performance of union activities while on official time, including any internal union business, solicitation of new members, election of union officers and any partisan political issues. Qualifying activity is restricted to government business and it is regulated by departments and agencies that decide how much official time is valuable to their operations. While most subcommittee members agreed that official time is a value-add for agencies and departments, some members doubted the need for employees to work on official time activities full-time.
“There is a lot of misinformation about what ‘official time’ is and how it is used,” stated Erwin. “Those trying to eliminate or reduce official time regularly claim it is used for internal union business and political purposes when that is simply not the case. The truth is, those attacking official time are really just trying to get rid of the unions, and criticizing official time is just another way to do that.”