Rep. Phil Gingrey (R-Ga.) will push for passage of his legislation that would sharply limit the ability of federal labor representatives to perform union duties while on government time at a House hearing Wednesday afternoon.

Federal law now allows representatives to use “official time” for certain duties. Official time is allowed because the law also requires federal unions to represent employees who are not members and who pay no fees for union services.

In testimony prepared for delivery to the House federal workforce subcommittee, Gingrey said “official time is not fair to the government or the taxpayer and works solely to the benefit of labor unions and employees who serve as its representative or steward. With an extraordinary amount of federal employees authorized to use 100% official time on behalf of their union, the federal government loses the immensely valuable civil service for which he or she was originally hired to perform. Additionally, taxpayers pay for absolutely no official productivity on their own behalf while federal employees use official time.”

Gingrey will find support for his legislation with the subcommittee’s chairman, Rep. Dennis Ross (R-Fla.), who is among 56 cosponsors. Democrats on the panel, however, led by Rep. Stephen Lynch (D-Mass.) plan to chide the hearing as a Republican effort to find a problem where there is none.

An official time report released in May by the Office of Personnel Management shows the number of hours devoted to official time has declined from 3.3 million in fiscal year 2005 to 2.9 million in 2009. The rate of official time used, that is the number of hours per bargaining unit employee, also declined, from 3.2 to 2.58 during the same period.

“Employee representatives and managers have used official time to transform the labor-management relationship from an adversarial stand-off into a robust alliance,” John Gage, president of the American Federation of Government Employees, said in his prepared testimony.

Without official time, he said labor-management disputes would escalate “to far more expensive, more formal procedures,” including federal court litigation.

federaldiary@washpost.com