The Official TimeOfficial time
" House Oversight and Government Reform Committee plans to further investigate the use of official time at a May 24 hearings. What exactly is official time, where does it come from and what is it used for? With the 1978 Civil Service Reform Act, the official time was established for workers engaged in wage negotiation or who represent an worker on trade unions' behalf if they would otherwise perform their functions.
Specifically, there is official time to ensure that staff who replace their colleagues at in-house consultancy services do not lose their wages. Formal time could mean that staff are represented in complaints or discipline. This could also include assistance to an agent in establishing teleworking directives, promotion schemes or other directives that could adversely impact the job or welfare of agents.
It is therefore deceptive to call them "taxpayer-funded trade union time" because all that is officially allowed is agent work, not trade-union work. Indeed, the Civil Service Reform Act explicitly forbids workers from conducting trade-union activities outside official hours. "According to the law, all actions carried out by an individual in connection with the conduct of the affairs of a work organisation (including calling for memberships, election of trade union officers and collecting dues) are carried out during the period when the individual is in a non-compulsory state.
There is no obligation for civil servants to join a tradeunion; however, the Act stipulates that the trade unions must replace every civil servant, whether or not he is a member of the trade union. For this reason, agents are obliged to reimburse staff for the use of official time in order to guarantee equitable coverage. Otherwise, staff would be compelled to hold leisure sessions with senior management on job-related topics, while senior management would be remunerated for these sessions.
Trade unions therefore do not have free control over the fee agents for as long as they wish. This must be agreed between the agent and trade unions and authorised by the director. The official time does not involve any additional money for the agents - the staff is remunerated for the official time at their regular rates.
There is also the notion that official time consumes the working time of the agents that would normally be dedicated to the Agency's work. Whilst it may be the case that staff members do not perform their normal tasks during the official period, it is the staff function for the Agencys. Moreover, consultations on official time saves the agents time and monies that would otherwise be used to resolve disputes through court proceedings.