Sir John Wood

Professor Sir John Wood
Professor Sir John Wood
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sir JOHN Wood, emeritus professor of law at Sheffield University who also had a distinguished national and international career in industrial relations for which he was knighted in the 1970s, has died aged 82.

When he went to Sheffield to specialise in industrial relations, he helped develop the teaching of law with Professor Roy Marshall, the then Dean.

The prestige of law at the university today owes a great deal to Sir John’s vision and efforts, while equally important was his key role in the introduction of criminology at Sheffield.

Having been a key player in central university committees, Sir John eventually stepped back from an active role to devote some of his time to national and international bodies concerned with dispute resolution, especially in the sphere of employment relations.

He was born John Crossley Wood in Brighouse, the only child of Herbert and Annie Wood. His father was a hay and straw merchant, and haulage contractor.

He was educated at Rastrick Grammar School, then at Bradford Grammar School from 1943 to 1946, before going to Manchester University where he gained a Master of Law degree.

Following university he did his National Service from 1950 to 1952 with the Royal Army Service Corps in southern England where he learnt to type.

After qualifying as a barrister, he worked from chambers in King Street, Manchester, and at the same time was an assistant lecturer at Manchester University.

In 1958 he moved to Sheffield University as senior lecturer where he stayed for the rest of his career, becoming Professor and Dean of the Faculty of Law and holding the Edward Bramley Chair for many years.

Outside the university, he handled arbitrations and committees of inquiry from the 1960s, was a member of the Advisory Conciliation and Arbitration Service (ACAS) from 1974 to 1976, and served as an independent member of the Industrial Arbitration Board from 1970. He was appointed chairman of the Central Arbitration Committee, an independent statutory body which resolves disputes arising from collective bargaining, from its inception in 1976 to his retirement in 1999.

In the 1960s and 1970s, he resolved several major disputes in the steel, motor and other industries.

He also worked with BALPA –British Airline Pilots Association – once enjoying a trip across the Atlantic on the flight deck to observe the pilots’ working environment, and with the Wages Councils including in the boot and shoe and furniture industries.

On the international front he worked with the International Labour Organisation travelling worldwide for arbitrations.

As deputy chairman of the Robens committee, he helped to produce the report which led to the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974, having travelled to Germany and Canada to study other countries’ health and safety practices.

For many years he also sat on Mental Health Review Tribunals, becoming a regional chairman.

In the late 1960s he was appointed CBE, and was knighted in the late 1970s, on both occasions for services to industrial relations.

He also did professional and legal work for the football authorities, particularly the Professional Footballers’ Association and the Football League, including dealing with transfer negotiations and players’ contracts, terms and conditions and pensions, work which made a significant contribution to the structures of players’ working arrangements.

Among the tributes at his funeral was one by Gordon Taylor, chief executive of the Professional Footballers’ Association.

In his youth he was a Boy Scout, being a firewatcher with them during the Second World War, and a keen horse rider taking any opportunity he could to visit stables in St Annes-on-Sea owned by friends of his grandparents who had retired there.

He was interested in watching all sports and was a keen snooker player. He was a member of Brighouse Cricket and Bowling Club, was at one time a member of Yorkshire County Cricket Club, and a life-long supporter and season ticket holder at Huddersfield Town AFC.

Sir John is survived by his Sonia, his wife of more than 60 years whom he met at Manchester University, and his son Sam. His daughter Rebecca predeceased him in 1993.