Public employee union officials cost the taxpayers about $30 million over five years for taking paid leave or being released from their job responsibilities in order to attend to union, according to the State of New Jersey Commission of Investigation.
The SCI found that throughout the state, the public sector regularly grants union representatives some form of time-off for union work. After sampling more than 120 school systems, 17 municipalities, 12 departments of state government and all 21 counties, the SCI found that the paid leave adds up to a substantial amount of money.
“Although it is not uncommon, nor is it necessarily improper, for government employers to grant some form of time-off for union work, the Commission found significant and questionable variations in how such leave is authorized, who qualifies for it, who keeps track of it, how it is constituted and who ultimately pays the bill,” according to the SCI report.
The leave ran the gamut of some union officials having been on paid leave for decades while others are more occasional. Often, union officials are granted government-paid stipends or overtime as well as expenses and the use of taxpayer-provided equipment, offices and cars are common. Some of these arrangements are codified in “sidebar” agreements with the government.
The SCI is recommending that taxpayer-funded leave be eliminated or curtailed; uniform rules established and public disclosure of the arrangements.