Off the clock

Original Reporting | By Diana Jean Schemo |

Cost savings as a pretext?

In his “Dear Colleague” email, Rep. Gingrey noted that between 2007 and 2008 the cost to the public of covered union-related work rose to $120 million from $113 million. “While families all over the nation are tightening their belts and cutting their own spending, it should not be the practice of the federal government to increase the size and spending of its budget and federal agencies.”

But there is little evidence that the practice is growing appreciably, or contributing to any rise in government inefficiency. On an annual per employee basis, official time increased only slightly between 2007 and 2008 — by five minutes, to be exact — from 2.6 hours per employee to 2.69 hours. And while the Republican Study Committee is proposing the measure as a step toward slashing the deficit, Congressman Gingrey first proposed the same bill in 2009, without mentioning the federal deficit at all.

Figures collected by the federal Office of Personnel Management, which tracks union-related use of official time, show that over a longer trajectory, the use of official time has in fact declined steeply, to 3 million hours in 2008 from 4.7 million hours in 2003, when it amounted to 4.71 hours per employee for the year, at a cost of $128.6 million.

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