We recently talked about the difficulty that VA chief David Shulkin ran into when attempting to fire one of his people who had been found to be grossly negligent. That person was Brian Hawkins, who had been deemed incompetent in leadership and guilty of mishandling patient records, including sending some of them to his wife’s personal email accounts. Hawkins wasn’t out of work long after the MSPB agreed to hear his appeal. He’s now back on the job awaiting final disposition of his case.

It’s not just the VA where we’re having trouble cutting out the deadwood, however. This report from the Washington Post has at least one real eye opener in it. The head of the Treasury has been made aware of problems at the Patent and Trademark Office. Over there, a number of workers were found to be falsifying their time reporting, billing the government for hundreds of thousands of dollars for time not worked. In some of the most severe cases, workers put in two hours of time, then had the audacity to charge the government for a full day plus two hours of overtime. Only one person has managed to be fired in that scandal and that case may be put on hold also.

Sounds like this should be fairly easy to clean up, right? Not so fast. Enter Harold Ross, president of Local 243 of the National Treasury Employees Union. He doesn’t see any reason for disciplinary action because even if his union members weren’t on the job, they were available to work. (Emphasis added)

A union official denied any impropriety, saying his members “were available to work” but often finished their tasks quickly and awaited more assignments, a practice that went on for as long as a decade.

“My employees are not in the wrong,” said Harold Ross, president of Local 243 of the National Treasury Employees Union, which represents the unit. “They produce fast. They’re available for the whole time. All of a sudden, management wants to come against them.”

Patent office spokesman Paul Rosenthal said in an email the agency does not comment on specific personnel cases.

For the umpteenth time we see the disconnect between reality and how things work in the union world. Saying that your people are “available to work” doesn’t mean that their employer should be paying them. It quite literally means that they are doing nothing because otherwise they wouldn’t be “available,” now would they? Further, arguing that they “produce fast” doesn’t mean a thing. Efficiency is wonderful, but if you finish all of your work and the employer has no more work for you to do, that means that the employer has too many workers. Even if they hadn’t been falsifying their time sheets and ripping off the taxpayers, they should have been cut loose until the workload matched the number of employees on the job.

I invite these government worker union leaders to go try that in the private sector. If I need three guys working full time and you start billing me for fifteen workers because the other dozen are “available” at any time, I’m taking you to court immediately. And you’ll lose. Sadly, in Washington, this guy will probably come out on top and get back pay for all of the fraudulent union workers to boot.