A Canadian born and raised in Winnipeg, he studied economics and political science at the University of Manitoba before moving to Oxford to do a DPhil in Industrial Relations. Following a Studentship (1964-66) and a Research Fellowship (1966-69) at Nuffield College, he held Professorships at the University of Manchester Institute of Science & Technology and the University of Warwick, where he was also Director of the ESRC’s Industrial Relations Research Unit and Chair of the School of Industrial & Business Studies. He was then Principal of London Business School and subsequently the President and Vice Chancellor of Queen’s University Belfast.
His research interests have been mainly concerned with white-collar employees and their organisations; the theory of union growth; and public policy relating to union recognition and union security, collective bargaining, employee participation and industrial democracy.
Although primarily an academic, his interests and activities have extended far beyond the academy. He has been a mediator and arbitrator in numerous industrial disputes, has consulted for many public- and private-sector organisations, and been a non-executive director of several companies in the United Kingdom and Canada.
He has engaged extensively in public service, particularly by chairing several government commissions and inquiries, including: the Low Pay Commission, which introduced the National Minimum Wage; the Work and Parents Taskforce, which underpinned legislation on work-life balance; and the Independent Review of the Fire Service, which provided the basis for fundamental reform in this sector. In Northern Ireland, he has chaired the Legal Services Review Group, which set out a new framework for regulating the legal professions, and the Independent Strategic Review of Education, which advanced a new approach for the strategic planning and organisation of the schools’ estate.
He has received several prizes and honours, including being made a Fellow of the British Academy of Management and the Academy of Social Sciences, receiving twelve honorary doctorates, and being knighted by the Queen.