69% of Survey Respondents Say Official Time Reduces Efficiency or Wastes Government Resources

A new survey of some 2100 readers found than 69% think the federal government paying federal employees to represent unions “decreases agency efficiency” or “is a waste of agency funds”.

“Official time” is the term used to refer to the federal government’s policy of providing full salary and benefits for a federal employee while representing a union rather than doing the work for which the employee was hired. This policy has been in the news recently, often portraying the practice of paying “official time” in a negative way.

Many of these news stories have involved the Internal Revenue Service and the Veterans Health Administration as these agencies have come under considerable criticism for their actions. The general criticism is that while the agencies were not accomplishing the missions they were supposed to be accomplishing, the agencies were spending large sums of money to a number of federal employees to represent unions.

Last week, we asked readers for their view on official time usage in the federal government. Essentially, the survey asked whether the use of official time improved the efficiency of the federal government or whether it was a waste of agency resources.  Most FedSmith readers are active or retired federal employees. More than 2100 readers readers responded to the anonymous survey.

While federal employees are often portrayed as a unified workforce with most employees having the same views and political opinions, the reality is often different. While federal employee unions often garner publicity and articulate opinions that may be portrayed as representing all federal workers, the reality may be different when the political considerations of unions are not the major factor. The typical federal employee is well educated and will usually make their own decisions about topics. With this background, the results of this survey may not be as surprising as some would think.

While a substantial percentage of the federal workforce is represented by unions, the percentage of federal employees actually joining and paying dues is considerably smaller in the federal workforce as a whole. This disparity may account for the fact that approximately 69% of readers responding to the survey think that the federal government paying for federal employees to represent a union “is a waste of agency funds” or decreases agency efficiency and effectiveness by paying people to perform other work.

Here are the results:

Official time is the policy of paying a federal employee full pay and benefits to represent the union. What is your view regarding this policy?

Official time makes the government more efficient and effective18.40%
Official time is a waste of agency funds and unions should pay their own expenses49.22%
Official time is fair since agency representatives are paid by the taxpayer12.66%
Official time decreases agency efficiency and effectiveness by paying people to perform other work19.72%

Readers are welcome to offer their own views in the comments section of this article. Please note that comments that appear to be designed to denigrate or insult other readers will be deleted regardless of the expressed views of the person making the offensive comment.

About the Author

Ralph Smith has several decades of experience working with federal human resources issues. He has written extensively on a full range of human resources topics in books and newsletters and is a co-founder of two companies and several newsletters on federal human resources. Follow Ralph on Twitter: @RalphSmith47