OPM put out the report.

Federal Agencies Are Spending More on Employees Conducting Union Activities

Justice, Homeland Security see biggest spikes in official time usage.

Federal agencies spent $162.5 million paying employees to engage in union activity rather than their normal federal jobs in fiscal 2014, according to a report, up more than 3 percent compared to two years earlier.

Employees spent a total of 3.47 million hours on official time in fiscal 2014, an increase of just less than 1 percent since fiscal 2012. The Office of Personnel Management report is the first such data release since it relayed official time information for fiscal 2012. OPM is not statutorily required to release the data annually, but had done so every year since 2002 before skipping 2013.

Thirty-seven agencies decreased their official time usage between fiscal years 2012 and 2014, while 20 agencies saw an increase. The average number of hours throughout the year per employee increased slightly from 2.81 to 2.87.

The report’s release comes as Congress is considering multiple measures to restrict federal employees’ ability to use official time, which allows union personnel to conduct certain labor-management relations while earning a federal salary and working from a federal workspace. The House Oversight and Government Reform Committee earlier this month approved the Official Time Reform Act, which would prevent employees from counting days worked at least 80 percent on union representational duties toward their retirement pensions. It would also prevent employees from engaging in lobbying while on official time.

Another bill would prevent employees at the Veterans Affairs Department -- the largest user of official time -- from spending more than half their time on union duties.

All told, about 1.2 million non-postal federal civilians -- about 58 percent -- were represented by a union in fiscal 2014, down 1.5 percent since two years prior. The salary and benefits paid to employees on official time represented 0.1 percent of all compensation costs for the federal workforce, the same portion as fiscal 2012.

The Justice Department saw the biggest increase in official time usage and spending in the new report, with hours and compensation expenditures jumping nearly 50 percent over 2 years. At the Homeland Security Department, the number of official time hours spiked by more than 30 percent.

While the overall growth was relatively small, official time usage has increased much more significantly over a five-year span. Employees collectively spent 16 percent more hours on official time in fiscal 2014 compared to fiscal 2009. The hours per bargaining unit employee jumped 12 percent in that period.