Former Unifor president who helped save GM plant under investigation
High-profile former Unifor leader Jerry Dias is being investigated for alleged violation of the union’s constitution.
In a statement on Monday, Unifor, the union that represents 315,000 workers in Canada, including those at the three Detroit automakers, said that on January 26, National Secretary-Treasurer Lana Payne received a written complaint that Dias had engaged in the alleged violation, although Unifor is not releasing details of the complaint.
“After reviewing the complaint, Payne promptly launched an independent external investigation,” Unifor spokeswoman Kathleen O’Keefe wrote in the statement. “On January 29, Dias was informed of the investigation, which is ongoing.”
Dias, 63, has been on sick leave since February 6. He told the Unifor board of directors of his early retirement on March 11, citing health issues.
O’Keefe said to ensure the integrity of the investigation and maintain confidentiality in accordance with Unifor’s constitution, the union will not share details of the complaint at this time, but the union’s National Executive Board will meet. next Monday to discuss the issue.
“The union will have no further public comment until it receives the investigation report, which is expected in the near future,” O’Keefe’s statement said. “Every member of Unifor is held to the same standards and enjoys the same rights under our constitution.”
No sign of trouble
The news comes a day after Unifor issued a press release confirming Dias’ retirement.
In this Sunday statement, Dias made a statement saying he felt good about his 8 1/2 years in leadership.
“I can proudly say that we have built an incredible organization and made Unifor the influential and successful union it is today,” said Dias. “I have every confidence that management, staff and locals will continue to make Unifor a bold and progressive force for workers from coast to coast.”
In that ad, Payne went on to praise Dias and made no hint of any issues or an internal investigation.
“On behalf of our members and our leadership team, we wish Jerry well and thank him for his many impactful contributions to workers over the years, from his days representing aerospace workers in the workshop to the national president of Canada’s largest private sector union. “, Payne said.
Payne, who is the highest ranking officer, will replace Dias until a new president is elected.
According to the CBC, there are two candidates for national president: Unifor Local 444 President Dave Cassidy and Scott Doherty, Dias’ executive assistant.
The news comes as the UAW in the United States overcomes a corruption scandal that resulted in the conviction of 15 people, including two former presidents. In November, UAW members voted to amend the UAW constitution to require direct elections of international leaders in the future. This first election will take place this summer.
Also in November, an independent UAW observer investigated current president Ray Curry’s use of football tickets the union had obtained before he was president. But the comptroller chose not to press charges against Curry, referring the matter to the union’s ethics officer.
Dias deals with Detroit
Dias is best known for his battle with GM at the end of 2019-20. The automaker announced in late 2018 that it would permanently close the assembly plant in Oshawa, Ontario.
Dias launched an aggressive campaign for GM to save the Oshawa Assembly, about 40 miles east of Toronto. It was one of five plants in North America that GM planned to close as a cost-cutting measure.
“We had a hell of a fight,” Dias told the Free Press in an earlier interview. He was referring to multiple protests by Unifor workers at GM Canada headquarters.
Dias also called for a boycott of GM vehicles made in Mexico and launched a negative media campaign.
In May 2019, Unifor and GM decided to keep Oshawa in part as an aftermarket assembler, saving about 300 jobs.
Then came the 2020 contract talks. Unifor entered negotiations in August of that year with Ford Motor, the company that paved the way for standard negotiations with the Detroit Three in Canada.
Unifor entered into a three-year deal with Ford, FCA (now called Stellantis) and then GM. The agreements cover approximately 17,000 Unifor members at the Detroit Three.
The most significant victory in the FCA deal was the return of a third shift at the Windsor assembly plant by 2024 and up to 2,000 jobs. FCA has also agreed to launch a new platform to build plug-in hybrid and/or battery electric vehicles.
Dias also reached a landmark deal with Ford. Ford will invest $1.5 billion (US) to bring battery electric vehicle production to its Oakville, Ontario assembly plant and a new derived engine to Windsor.
A $590 million (US$451.4 million) investment by the federal and provincial governments to help bring these electric vehicles to Oakville has locked in the Unifor/Ford deal.
But GM’s agreement to invest $1.1 billion to retool and restart Oshawa Assembly to build full-size pickups is the crown jewel of Dias’ negotiations.
When he made the announcement, the 300 people still working at the Oshawa plant rejoiced and celebrated, he said, and “it was a very emotional day.”
Still, there were critics at one point who said Dias wasn’t doing enough to prevent the shutdown in the first place. At this point, Dias told the Free Press in November 2020, after Oshawa’s fortunes reversed in negotiations, “My critics can fuck my ass.”
Last November, the first Silverado, a rugged 2022 High Country version in red, rolled off the assembly line in Oshawa.
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