Employee morale falls at federal agencies

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It’s no secret that federal workers are feeling worn down. They’ve had their salaries frozen and are at the center of a partisan debate over the value of their work.

A report due out today, based on the largest sample ever of the workforce of 2 million, confirms a steady decline in morale and ebbing commitment.

Despite positive reports at some agencies, job satisfaction across the government has hit its lowest point in almost a decade. Just 52.9 percent of employees at the sprawling Department of Homeland Security, for example, are satisfied with their jobs, making it the lowest-ranked large agency, followed by the Department of Veterans Affairs.

The seventh annual “Best Places to Work in the Federal Government” rankings pose a challenge for the Obama administration, as President Barack Obama, who pledged to reinvigorate federal work and make government “cool again,” embarks on a second term.

Even workers at layoff-battered private companies are more optimistic than government employees, who historically have had far more job security, the survey by the nonpartisan Partnership for Public Service found.

Still, federal workers say they are committed to the missions of their agencies.

“We work for a horrible agency, but we do great work,” said Ricky McCoy, a transportation security officer at Chicago O’Hare International Airport and president of Local 777 of the American Federation of Government Employees.

Just 32 percent of employees at the Transportation Security Administration, part of DHS, are satisfied with their pay, which is among the lowest in government.

McCoy said he expects TSA’s first collective-bargaining agreement, signed in November, to improve morale. “We’re hopeful now that things will turn in our direction,” he said.

DHS, which was created after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, has suffered from high turnover in top jobs. Spokeswoman Marsha Catron said leaders are “focused on continuing to improve employee engagement” with better communication from managers, training and rewards for good work.

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