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Floating holidays for city employees?

The Jefferson City Council soon will revisit the idea of granting two floating holidays for city employees.

The discussion was taken up at the Council Committee on Administration meeting Wednesday, where the issue was sent after council members indicated a desire to have the request go through the committee process at a budget discussion last week.

Human Resources Director Gail Strope presented a draft bill to the committee that would allow city employees to have two floating holidays in the next fiscal year. The holidays only would be given to full-time employees and the four part-time employees who have benefits.

The floating holidays were included in City Administrator Nathan Nickolaus’ draft 2014 budget, but were not included in Mayor Eric Struemph’s proposed budget. The cost of providing the holidays to employees is estimated to be $7,500.

Nickolaus said the holidays would be a way of rewarding staff for continued hard work in a year where salary increases likely are not an option. But some council members are hesitant to provide the added holidays when money is tight.

Fifth Ward Councilman Larry Henry said he has concerns about the effect the holidays will have on productivity, as well as the overall cost.

“I’m kind of up in the air about this,” Henry said.

Nickolaus said he believes the holidays will increase productivity as employees will be more satisfied.

“As long as the job is getting done, productivity is maintained,” Nickolaus said.

First Ward Councilman Jim Branch said though $7,500 is not a lot of money out of the city budget, all finances are tight and employees should understand that.

“I just have a problem with this right now,” Branch said. “To me, it’s not a good time.”

Nickolaus said this is a time when the city is asking its employees to do more for the same amount of money and if that isn’t rewarded in some way, employees may not be as loyal as they have been in the past. He said successful businesses in the private sector have changed the traditional model of how employees are treated, using lifestyle bonuses instead of financial incentives to attract and retain workers.

He gave the example of a business taking its entire staff out for ice cream or having bowling days to reward good work.

“These kind of changes are more important to them than financial things,” Nickolaus said. “What I’m encouraging here is the kind of change that will put us much more in sync with what moderate, successful businesses are doing.”

Fourth Ward Councilwoman Carrie Carroll said it comes down to what message the council wants to send to employees.

“We want to do something to reward or ... thank our employees,” Carroll said. “It’s a small price.”

Strope said currently the city provides 10 paid holidays for employees, while the state provides 12 paid holidays for employees, plus additional ones declared by the governor.

Third Ward Councilman Ken Hussey said if the city were at the state level, he would have more of an issue with the proposal, but as it is he believes it merits more discussion and urged other council members to move the proposal forward to allow for further deliberation.

“This is a creative, I think, more cost-effective way to do something,” Hussey said. “It’s at least a discussion to have at the greater council level.”

The committee voted to move the issue forward to the full City Council by a 3-1 vote. Branch cast the sole opposing vote.

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