BLS Data: Government Workers Miss Work 50 Percent More than Private Sector Workers

A blog post at cites recent Bureau of Labor Statistics data and reports that in 2012:

A government worker is 38 percent more likely to be absent from work for personal reasons or illnesses than a private-sector worker, and government workers miss 50 percent more of their usual work hours as a result of such absences than do private sector workers

According to the BLS, an employee is consider absent in:

instances when persons who usually work 35 or more hours per week (full time) worked less than 35 hours during the reference week for one of the following reasons: own illness, injury, or medical problems; child care problems; other family or personal obligations; civic or military duty; and maternity or paternity leave. Excluded are situations in which work was missed due to vacation or personal days, holiday, labor dispute, and other reasons.

However, the BLS data does account for an instance that causes numerous government employees at the federal, state, and local level to be absent from work every year. A little-known government-granted union perk known as “official time,” or at the state level “release time,” allows government employees to take time off from their civic duties and strictly perform union business. In addition, government employees are paid their regular government salary while conducting union business on official time.

Federally, the Office of Personnel Management occasionally issues a publication that reports the amount of time and cost of union official time in the federal government. According to the latest report, federal employees spent 3.4 million hours on union activities in Fiscal Year 2011, an increase of nearly 300,000 hours from 2010. That cost taxpayers $155 million in salaries and benefits.

Additionally, it has been found through FOIA requests that many government employees are always absent from work — “working” on 100-percent official time. According to the Americans for Limited Government FOIA files, the Department of Transportation had 35 employees who did nothing but union work in 2012, and the Environment Protection Agency had 17. All 52 made at least $72,000 per year, and 37 made more than $100,000.

There is sparse reporting on union release time at the state or local level. However, several free-market think tanks and have used open records laws to find out how much in released is dispensed to government unions.

See WPC state union release time records here. For more on official time, see here, here, and here.