Category Archives: Public Sector

The Supreme Court and the Deconstitutionalization of the Freedom of Speech Rights of Public Employees

Source: Robert Roberts, Review of Public Personnel Administration, Vol. 27, No. 2, June 2007
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In Garcetti v. Ceballos (2006), the United States Supreme Court held that the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution does not prohibit a public employer from disciplining a public employee for the contents of an official memorandum made in the course of the performance of official duties, even if a federal court finds that the contents of the memorandum involved a matter of “public concern.” This article argues that the Garcetti decision modifies the Pickering v. Board of Education (1968) and Connick v. Myers (1983) two-part test by requiring federal courts to first determine whether or not the public official made a communication in the course of the performance of official duties. The article also argues that it remains to be seen whether the Garcetti decision will have a significant impact on the willingness of public employees to make use of official channels to raise legitimate concerns over actions taken or not taken by their organizations.

Perspectives 2007: iGovernment — Empowering citizens through distributed technology

Source: Perspectives 2007, Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu, June 2007

Summary

The Global Public Sector annual report, “Perspectives 2007,” outlines the incredibly diverse needs of 21st century citizens and the challenges facing governments today. At every level of government, from basic infrastructure to technological advancement, constituents are demanding public service evolution. This report observes the ever-changing obstacles of governments at the many different levels where they touch citizens’ lives and offers examples of lessons learned executing solutions to these challenges.

From providing food and water, to securing trade and encouraging participation in the global community, governments are relying more and more on the input of citizens. By taking technological advancements and innovation in the private sector and coupling it with a more distributive approach, governments have an opportunity to respond to the changing demands of the population.

Public Services Innovation Through Technology

Source: David Pym, Richard Taylor, Chris Tofts, HP Labs, HPL-2007-22, February 16, 2007

Governments struggle to understand how technologies may be used to innovate in the development and delivery of public sectors. Frequently technologies are seen as quick and effective fixes for problems that may run far deeper than obvious process and user dynamics. As often, solutions are considered as ‘point provision’ and as such fail to recognise the complex co-evolution of society, economics, the world outside a government’s borders and control, and the technologies themselves. This paper summarises a number of key areas that must be understood in order to effectively innovate through the introduction and management of services mediated by new technologies.

Pay for Performance: A Public Sector Puzzle

Source: Dick Grote, IPMA_HR News, March 2007
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True or false: Good workers should get paid better than bad workers. Sounds simple, doesn’t it? But the apparently obvious concept that those who do better work should receive better pay underlies one of the most puzzling public sector performance management issues: the notion of pay for performance. Before a pay for performance system can work, the tool to measure performance must be solidly in place. That’s why it’s a good idea to develop a good performance appraisal system before you tinker with the compensation system. But the conventional appraisal system used in most cities and state agencies doesn’t have the horse power to drive an effective pay for performance effort. The system has to be scrapped and recreated so that the city’s mission statement and vision and values are clearly linked to individual performance.

Public Sector Compensation in Local Governments: An Analysis

Source: Thom Reilly, Shaun Schoener, and Alice Bolin, Review of Public Personnel Administration, Vol. 27 no. 1, March 2007
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The purpose of this study was to examine local government compensation practices across the United States and to explore possible correlations of these practices to service delivery. One hundred twenty of the largest cities and counties responded to a mail survey, for a response rate of 40%. The data suggest a large percentage (86%) of local governments faced financial difficulties in the form of a budget shortfall since 2000. In response to these shortfalls, local governments were more likely to reduce their workforce, reduce or eliminate services, and/or raise taxes or user fees rather than scale back wages and benefits. Because of this reaction, more than one half of the respondents experienced a decrease in full-time equivalent employment per 1,000 residents. Collective bargaining status, geographical region, and type of government (county or city) were found to be significant factors in determining compensation practices. Implications for practice and policy are advanced.

Do Truly Comparable Public and Private Sector Workers Show and Compensation Differential?

Source: Josefa Ramoni-Perazzi and Don Bellante, Journal of Labor Studies, Vol. 28 no. 1, Winter 2007

Using data from the Health and Retirement Study, we apply propensity score matching methods to examine evidence on the rent paid to public sector workers in the United States. Traditionally, wage differentials are computed assuming that workers from both public and private sectors are comparable, without actually controlling for the comparability of the units. Using this method, we are able to control for selection bias and, at the same time, select a subsample of comparable workers in terms of their conditional probability of choosing to work in the public sector on which to estimate separate wage equations.

The New Crisis of Public Service Employment

Source: Gerald W. McEntee, Public Personnel Management, Winter 2006, Volume 35, no. 4

These are unprecedented times for public service workers and the unions that represent their interests. The largest of these unions is the 1.4 million member American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME), AFL-CIO. In recent years, AFSCME has been thrust into the role of defending sweeping attacks on public employees and public budgets at every level of government.

Throughout its 70-year history, AFSCME has waged effective battles that have enabled public employees to join the ranks of the middle class—winning collective bargaining rights, facilitating the adoption of merit-based job performance systems, growing public employee pension plans, securing wage increases, and helping create a vibrant public sector that provides effective services to citizens and helps local economies realize their potential.
Today, much of the historic progress achieved by public workers is at risk. Ultimately, how successfully AFSCME and its fellow public unions meet five core challenges in the areas of privatization—fiscal limits, civil service reform and pension reform—will determine the future of America’s public sector.

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.

The Past as Prologue? A Brief History of the Labor Movement in the United States

Source: Joseph Adler, Public Personnel Management, Winter 2006, Volume 35, no. 4

Of the approximately 20 million public employees in the United States, more than eight million are either members of or represented by labor unions—a penetration rate of just over 40 percent. What is remarkable about this phenomenal growth is that most of the expansion of union activity in government has occurred within the last 40 years, and almost mirrors the decline of union strength in the private sector.

The rise and fall of labor in the private sector is a backdrop to the growth of public sector collective bargaining. Explanations for the dramatic increase in government union activity can be explored from a number of different perspectives. Current public policy efforts to reform civil service and allow managers greater flexibility are seen by some researchers as having the potential to impact the ability of public sector unions to represent their members effectively.

A Word (or Two) About Public Sector Collective Bargaining

Source: Joseph Adler, Public Personnel Management, Winter 2006, Volume 35, no. 4

Public Sector Collective Bargaining is a relatively recent phenomenon—its lifecycle can be traced to and indeed may be a lasting legacy of the “baby boomers” entering the public sector workforce in record numbers. Outside of a few traditionally union-friendly or politically progressive jurisdictions, union activity among government employees was virtually unknown and unheard of in the 1950s. During the next two-plus decades, however, union membership rates saw explosive growth so that by 1979 about 38 percent of public employees were either members of or represented by unions. Despite an occasional setback, public sector unions managed to stay close to this rate for the next 27 years. Ironically, the ascendancy of public sector unions almost mirrors the decline of private sector unions; at one time they represented more than one-third of America’s workers; today they represent less than nine percent.

At the initial stages of public sector union organizing there was a robust discussion among practitioners, researchers, and others concerning the changes unionization might cause to the body politic over resource allocation, the determination of public policy, the use of political pressure at the bargaining table and the role of the “public” in bargaining, plus the potential shift in power favoring unionized employees. Acceptance of collective bargaining in government has indeed resulted in changes both at the macro public policy/administration level, and the micro human resource administration level. It is hoped that this special issue rekindles the inquiry and debate both from an academic as well as a practitioner perspective.