Federal employees have heard countless accusations that they’re overpaid in recent years. Now a new study from the conservative Heritage Foundation suggests they may be lazier than private sector workers.
Heritage on Tuesday released a report that concluded federal employees work, on average, nearly three fewer hours each week than workers in the private sector. By the end of the year, Heritage said, most feds put in about a month less on the job than private workers when vacation and other paid leave is taken into account.
Heritage studied the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ American Time Use Survey, which queries workers about their activities, including work time, in a 24-hour period. It concluded that average private-sector workers typically worked 41.4 hours per week, while feds worked 38.7 hours. State and local workers put in 38.1 hours on average, Heritage said.
This “should be of concern to taxpayers who expect private-sector levels of work in the public sector in exchange for private-sector levels of compensation,” Heritage said.
And Heritage suggested reducing federal employees’ paid leave to narrow the gap between allegedly overcompensated and underworked feds and private workers.
“With several recent studies” — including one published by Heritage two years ago — “suggesting an overall compensation premium for public employees, reducing aspects of that premium — such as paid leave — could be part of a larger strategy to shrink the pay gap and save taxpayer money.”
Federal employee organizations fired back at the report.
National Active and Retired Federal Employees Association Legislative Director Julie Tagen said Heritage’s reports are “historically biased against federal workers and retirees, and this one is no exception by only surveying 1,776 federal employees, or 0.07 percent of the entire federal employee population.”
On the other hand, Heritage used data on 8,053 state and local workers, and 39,042 private sector workers.
“It’s unlikely the researchers reviewed the timesheets of the federal team that landed the Curiosity Rover on Mars, prepared the United States for Hurricane Irene, and are currently responding to the crises in Syria and Egypt,” Tagen said. “As America’s federal employees devote their lives to our country, it is insulting to belittle their contributions with reports that disparage their work ethic.”
American Federation of Government Employees President J. David Cox called the report “utterly misleading” and “yet another opportunity to manipulate data in order to pit the public against government workers”:
The differences Heritage cites evaporate if one adjusts for firm size and length of service — the two most important factors determining hours of work and paid time off. … The reality is that many private, non-union employers provide absolutely no paid time off. No sick leave, no vacation, no holidays. That is the disgrace, not the fact that public sector employers recognize that all workers need some paid time off in order to maintain a work-life balance.
The Heritage Foundation’s attempts to mislead the public and denigrate the work of public employees is all part of their campaign to dismantle vital government services.
Heritage did note that it did not control for overtime pay in its report, which is often more available to private-sector workers than public workers. But Heritage said doing so would not be relevant, or account for the gap between public and private workers.