Bureaucrats Paid for Not Working

Obama's egregious executive order diverting federal money to unions.

By today’s standards, the amount of misused money is not large, it’s the practice that offends the sensibilities of any taxpayer aware of it. The practice is: paying federal employees not to work. The federal government paid employees $137 million for not doing their jobs. This was for the year 2010. For the previous year bureaucrats were paid only $129 million for not working. "How could his be?" you well may ask. This is happening while the federal government is doubled over with the load of a $1.3 billion deficit on its back.

This startling information was revealed by Diana Furchtgott-Roth, a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute and a contributing editor of RealClearMarkets. Her revelation is being picked up by other publications as well.

The government’s Office of Personnel Management (OPM) reported that these non-working workers were, instead, busy acting as representatives of government unions. Some bureaucrats are hindered by a mentality which dictates that one has to put one’s shoulder to the wheel where the effort is most vital to one’s interests.

The time spent by these federal employees not working for us taxpayers is called by the grandiose label “official time.” According to the account by Furchtgott-Roth, the OPM explained that “official time is time spent by federal employees performing representational work for a bargaining unit in lieu of their regularly assigned work.”

So, when a federal worker is yawning and stretching in boredom and apparently doesn’t have anything important to do, the union-appreciative bureaucrat can be elected or appointed as a “union representative.” This grants the person the special privilege of still collecting the pay for what they were hired to do, but spending their time giving their all for a union—and there are plenty of unions.

All 59 executive departments and agencies, as well as the Government Printing Office and the Capitol Police, have employees representing their interests. The OPM report for 2009 said nearly 5 million “official time” periods were listed in that year. Each employee used about 4 percent of his or her time in this union work (instead of the job supposedly being done for the taxpayers).

“Labor organizations and collective bargaining are in the public interest,” said the OPM report. President Obama reinforced that concept with an Executive Order (No. 13522), I found. In that order, Obama enunciated his feelings about government unions with the words that they “will improve the productivity and effectiveness of the federal government.” How that is possible may remain one of the many mysteries of the Obama Administration.

These “union representatives” still collect not only their regular salary but also various generous fringe benefits, including, of course, medical benefits, which many private-sector workers “no longer receive,” as Furchtgott-Roth points out.

Uncle Sam has about 2,850,000 non-military federal employees. There are 12 percent more federal employees now than when the recession began, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. In the private sector, to the contrary, jobs have fallen like autumn leaves in a heavy wind.

Why are we shelling out dollars to people for not working and instead are acting as representatives for their unions? How can this be when federal union representatives can’t negotiate salaries or various benefits? Such amounts are set in place by statutes. Federal employees cannot strike either. It’s against the law.

The Federal Employees' Compensation Act (FECA) provides monetary compensation, medical care and assistance (attendant allowances), vocational rehabilitation, and reemployment rights to federal employees who sustain disabling injuries as a result of their employment. FECA also provides for a fixed payment for the deceased employee's funeral expenses and for compensation benefits to qualified survivors of the decedent in cases of employment-related death.

According to the Federal Employees Compensation Act, employees may be eligible for six basic types of benefits including: “medical benefits (together with transportation expenses incurred); continuation of pay; disability compensation; schedule awards; vocational rehabilitation; and death benefits that include allowable funeral benefits and survivor compensation. The program applies to any disability (temporary or permanent, partial or total) incurred as a result of a job-related disease or condition, as well as an on-the-job traumatic injury.”

As for medical payments, “they may be made for any medical services needed for treatment or to counteract or minimize the effects of any condition, disease, or injury determined to be causally related to employment with the Federal Government. There is no limit on the extent of medical treatment payable nor is there a time limit for which they are payable if the need for medical treatment can be substantiated and connected to the employment-related injury or disease. Payment will be made for first aid, medical treatment, hospitalization, physician's fees, drugs, appliances, or other supplies directed for use by a physician.”

Sure beats ObamaCare.

For federal employees, each general schedule grade has 10 steps. Each year, an employee advances automatically to a higher pay level. There also are “within-grade increases.” These increases move the employee up a grade level. To earn “within-grade” increases, an employee’s “performance must be at an acceptable level of competence.” The employee must have “completed the required waiting period for advancement to their next higher step.”

No mention is made of “excellence” or “superior” or “beyond the call of duty.” Merely “acceptable level of competence.”

Some agencies are “more indulgent to union representatives than others." Not surprising, the most generous is the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), an Obama pet. In 2010, the NLRB had 11,480 hours of “official time” among its bargaining unit employees.

As Obama stated in his Executive Order, it’s all to assure improving the “productivity and effectiveness of the federal government.” Taxpayers knew there must be some reason for the Administration’s sterling performance.

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