OPM Releases Hilarious Union Official Time Report

The author suggestions that anyone in need of a good laugh should read OPM’s recent report on union official time use in the government.

OPM has released its Official Time Usage Survey Responses for 2010.

It’s always fun to read the wording attached to a government document that suggests the information provided is probably inaccurate.  Also fun is the language used by the Agency publishing the report of that information claiming it has no responsibility for its accuracy.  OPM is an apparent master of this based on the following:

“OPM transmitted the call to report FY 2010 official time data in a June 28, 2011, memorandum to agencies. OPM used figures gathered from automated time and attendance systems via the Enterprise Human Resources Integration (EHRI) system to collect official time data. Agencies were asked to verify the official time hours used by employee representatives within their organizations, and to validate how those hours were used within four pre-defined categories (See Appendix A). FY 2010 was the second consecutive year that OPM relied upon agency official time usage data extracted from the EHRI system. Executive departments and agencies with employees represented by labor organizations, as well as the Government Printing Office and U.S. Capitol Police, are covered in this report.

Each agency that reported official time electronically received a consolidated report, encompassing all agency subcomponents, of their official time usage within each of the four categories. Since the EHRI system tracks individual records, it may not have accounted for changes to an employee’s bargaining unit status during the course of the fiscal year. Recognizing this system’s limitation, agencies were requested to authenticate this data against their internal records to ensure that the data reported for each agency was accurate and complete. Agencies that have not transitioned to an e-Payroll system were asked to submit their official time usage manually for FY 2010. All sixty-one total agencies covered in this report confirmed or updated their official time data.”

So, I guess, if the data is wrong, it is the fault of the system or the responding Agencies.   Of course, OPM’s disclaimer, which takes up the first three paragraphs of the report, wouldn’t be necessary if it had any confidence in the accuracy of the data.  Come on, boys and girls, the evil Republicans are out, the friendly Democrats are in, labor management forums are required everywhere, and official time use stayed the same.  Please.

It will come as no surprise to the faithful reader that I might have some questions about the report.   FYI, I relied (Silly of me?) on OPM’s latest report of Civilian employment for some data about Agency size.

Some Questions about the Report

  1. The report lists the Defense Department (which OPM says has 2.5 million civilian employees) unions used about 350,000 hours of official time while Treasury’s (with 109,000 employees) unions used 650,000 hours of official time.  One question is whether they are printing money at Treasury to pay this official time?  Another, if Treasury is accurate (it certainly wouldn’t report more than was used), is whether DOD really is using 25 times as much (around 16 million hours), if it were accurately reported?  This, by itself would be more than five times the total claimed used by all Agencies reporting to OPM.  OPM says DOD has 2.5 million employees in one report but that only 440,000 are in bargaining units in another.  Does this alone zap the integrity of the numbers?
  2. The report lists the total time and breaks out whether it was used for Term(contract) negotiations, Mid-Term (presumably I&I) negotiations, dispute resolution or general labor-management relations.   At EEOC, for example, 90% of the time or 6 hours per unit employee was listed in the general column.  How many investigative meetings, formal discussions and how much lobbying goes on at the Agency?
  3. Going back to Treasury, it reported 90% use on other than negotiations or disputes.  What do they have to talk about for close to 600,000 hours a year?  Assuming 280 days in the work year, are they really jawboning it 2100 hours a day at Treasury on other than bargaining or disputes?
  4. Why isn’t the Federal Labor Relations Authority listed?  It has a union, despite statutory language saying it shouldn’t.   Did OPM miss them or didn’t they reply?  Inquiring minds…
  5. So which union uses the most hours per bargaining unit employee?  The National Labor Relations Board Union tops the charts at close to 11 hours per person represented.   I guess the question is why all of these private sector labor relations experts need all this Federal sector help. NLRBU has close to a million dollars in assets, yet pays not a cent of the cost of represented employees. Why is the Agency footing the bill for this?
  6. So who has had the biggest increase in time used?  Among the smaller Agencies, the US International Trade Commission reported a whopping 1427.14% increase going from 35 hours to 534½ hours.  Among the medium sized Agencies, EEOC went from 3300 hours to almost 13000, a growth of 287.03%.  Homeland Security led the big players jumping 21% from 108,000 to 130,000 hours.
  7. Is the new leadership at MSPB grinding its jackbooted heels on the necks of the proletariat (or AJs as the case may be)?  Official time use is up 418.75%.  Since virtually all the leadership of MSPB are former union lawyers (except the Republican), an investigation appears in order.  It’s one thing to reverse judges at a previously unheard of rate, but to provoke such a surge in official time use is quite another.
  8. What is going on at the Department of Veterans Affairs?  It has the highest reported use of any Federal Agency at about 810,000 hours.  According to OPM, that was a drop of almost 3%. Only about 16% was used to bargain or resolve disputes with over 675,000 hours used for other things.  Homeland Security claims 64,000 unit employees to DVA’s 240,000 but only $89 per employee to represent while DVA spends $149 per employee.  Of course, NLRBU tops the chart costing $642 per person represented.  Does any of this look efficient to you?
  9. So which employees get the best and worst bang for the buck? The lowest paid union rep appears to be at the Armed Forces Retirement Home at $21/hr and the highest at (whodathunkit) MSPB at $66.70 per hour.  I must admit, if I were making $67 an hour, I might try to increase my official (non-work) time 400% too.   Who wouldn’t?
  10. Rex Stout said that “There are two kinds of statistics, the kind you look up and the kind you make up.” Which one do you think OPM’s Report best embodies?

 As always, should you discern an opinion in the above, it is solely my responsibility.

About the Author

Bob Gilson is a consultant with a specialty in working with and training Federal agencies to resolve employee problems at all levels. A retired agency labor and employee relations director, Bob has authored or co-authored a number of books dealing with Federal issues and also conducts training seminars.