WASHINGTON – The American Federation of Government Employees strongly opposes any proposals to erode the rights of federal employee representatives to use official time to represent collective bargaining unit employees, AFGE National President John Gage told a House panel today.
For nearly 50 years, federal employees who serve as volunteer employee representatives have used official time to engage in representational activities while on duty status. Such activities include creating fair promotion procedures, establishing flexible work hours, setting procedures that protect employees from on-the-job injuries, enforcing protections from unlawful discrimination, developing telework practices and providing workers with a voice in determining their working conditions.
Federal employee unions represent all employees within their collective bargaining units, even those who choose not to pay union dues, Gage noted.
“Through official time, employee representatives are able to work together with federal managers to use their time, talent and resources to make our government even better. Gains in quality, productivity and efficiency – year after year, in department after department – simply would not have been possible without the reasonable and sound use of official time,” Gage said in testimony before the House Oversight and Government Reform Subcommittee on the Federal Workforce, U.S. Postal Service and Labor Policy.
Federal employee representatives do not use official time to conduct union-specific business, such as soliciting members, holding internal union meetings, electing union officers or engaging in partisan political activities.
The Civil Service Reform Act of 1978 limits the amount of official time that can be used for representational responsibilities to what which the labor organization and employing agency agree is reasonable, necessary and in the public interest, Gage said.
“The amount of time must be negotiated by the two parties. It is not a blank check for the union,” he said.
From fiscal 2008 to fiscal 2009, total official time hours governmentwide increased 3.37 percent. But the total number of hours expended per bargaining unit employee fell from 2.60 to 2.58.