By Stephen Dinan
Between snow days, official holidays and the government shutdown, federal employees have worked a normal business day less than 75 percent of the time since Oct. 1, marking a startlingly chaotic beginning to the fiscal year.
Offices have been closed in whole or in part for 27 of the 105 weekdays so far in the fiscal year, according to a Washington Times analysis of announcements from the federal Office of Personnel Management that found the government was closed for 21 days because of the shutdown, snow days or holidays. Delayed openings or unscheduled leave and telework policies were in effect for six more days.
Congress is the worst offender when it comes to time away from the main office.
Neither the House nor the Senate has worked a full Monday-to-Friday workweek in 2014.
House members have been in session for 17 of the 35 weekdays so far this year, less than 50 percent. Senators have met in full session for 18 days, slightly better than 50 percent.
Blame for federal employees’ crazy schedule is widespread: Congress and President Obama forced the shutdown when they were unable to agree on spending bills for the fiscal year, and the calendar this time of year is always full of official holidays. As for the snow — well, that’s either Mother Nature or climate change, depending on your perspective.
OPM officials didn’t respond to a request for comment on the closures, which have come under extra scrutiny in recent days as bitter weather has led to more snow days.
A labor union representing many federal employees said the workers are not to blame.
“The idea that federal employees are sipping cocoa by the fire when the government declares a snow emergency went out with the rotary phone,” said J. David Cox Sr., national president of the American Federation of Government Employees. “Federal employees are teleworking more than ever and remain connected to their jobs through email, voice mail and the Internet — whether their offices are open or closed. So snow days are now work days for many federal employees, which is a good thing since it improves employee safety without decreasing productivity.”
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