The Psychological Contract and the Union Contract: A Paradigm Shift in Public Sector Employee Relations

Source: Thomas J. Calo, Public Personnel Management, Winter 2006, Volume 35, no. 4

This article examines the changing nature of employee and labor relations in the United States. A significant shift has occurred in the employee relations environment between the public and private sectors. As union representation in the private sector workforce has steeply declined, there had been a sharp and steady increase in third party representation in the public sector workforce. The reasons for these changes are explored.

The article goes beyond the issue of labor relations to the broader issue of positive employee relations in the workplace. Exploring employee relations from a behavioral science perspective, the article describes and discusses the psychological contract as an organizing framework for understanding and achieving positive employee relations in the workplace. The article also draws upon the author’s professional human resource experiences in the public and private sectors.

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