Government costs for the paid time that federal employees spend on union activities in 2011 grew by nearly 12 percent over the previous year, reaching $156 million, according to a report released Friday by the Office of Personnel Management.

“Official time,” as the hours are known, rose during that period by nearly 10 percent.

The average number of official hours per employee also increased 8 percent to 2.82 hours for each worker in 2011, up from 2.61 in 2010.

The number of union-represented non-Postal Service federal employees rose by about 1.4 percent in 2011 compared to the previous year, totaling 1.2 million workers, according to the agency’s report.

Federal law allows official time for union activities such as collective bargaining, representing workers in grievances and disciplinary matters or communicating information about workplace issues. It does not pay for internal union business or dealing with matters unrelated to the conditions of employment.

In 2009, President Obama issued an executive order calling for labor-management workshops as a “non-adversarial forum for managers, employees, and employees’ union representatives to discuss Government operations,” with a goal to “improve the productivity and effectiveness of the Federal Government.”

Some Republican lawmakers have tried to abolish or severely limit official time. Rep. Phil Gingrey (R-Ga.) sponsored legislation in 2011 to end its use, and he proposed a similar bill this year.

The OPM report said that official time amounted to about 3.4 million hours in 2011, totaling 0.1 percent of the overall cost for federal salaries and benefits.

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