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Morale survey concerns officials

Whether the morale problem at City Hall is real or perceived, City commissioners say something has to be done to correct it. Commissioners received a report Monday on a survey of employees that showed that although 95 percent of employees responding like their jobs, 77 percent think morale is low.

More than half the city's 1,600 employees responded to the nine-page survey taken last month.

Susan MacManus, director of the University of South Florida research team that conducted the study, said the response was amazingly high.

She, as well as commissioners, took that to mean that employees had something to say about morale.

"It indicates our employees want us to know how they perceive this problem," Commissioner Sue Berfield said. "If it's perceived, it's the same as being there. Any problem that's perceived is a problem."

"I've said all along there's a morale problem," Mayor Rita Garvey said.

The $10,000 survey showed that employees were happy with job security, the city's vacation plan, pension plan, their sick leave and health insurance.

But they wanted to see more raises and employee recognition.

Employees also don't think there is much communication between the city manager's office and employees. About 70 percent of employees who responded do not think Clearwater is a better place than it was a year ago.

City Manager Michael Wright took over the job in March when Ron Rabun left, and Commissioner Dick Fitzgerald said he thinks morale has improved under Wright.

"I think he's serious about doing something about it," Fitzgerald said. "I don't think you'll see this study just sitting on a shelf."

Police and firefighters have the worst morale among city employees. In fact only 8 percent of Police Department employees, and 11 percent of Fire Department employees said they thought morale was good.

And 71 percent of police employees said working conditions in their department are not good.

Management and the commission did not fare too well. Eighty-six percent of employees said they feel that commissioners do not care about employees.

"I think they're right about the commissioners," Fraternal Order of Police Union president Peter Fire said. "The commissioners showed their attitude toward employees during collective bargaining."

The commission gave union members a 2 percent raise this year when the employees were hoping for 5 percent or 6 percent increase.

"I think the 2 percent raise would have some bearing on that," Berfield said.

Wright and Deputy City Manager Kathy Rice said they already have started trying to improve morale.

They've been meeting with the unions and department heads and plan to set up some meetings between employees and commissioners.

"We want to work with people . . . and let them know, commissioners do care about you, even if they don't give you a raise this year," Rice said.

They're also looking at providing employees with more recognition and training managers to do evaluations more objectively.

"You're not going to see a difference right away," Wright said.

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