Unifor National President Jerry Dias takes sick leave

The man who brokered a deal to relaunch a General Motors plant in Canada has taken sick leave.

Unifor National President Jerry Dias, 63, faced health issues and took time off earlier this month, according to a memo sent to union members and confirmed by a spokesperson. of Unifor.

Dias was unavailable for comment.

The memo says Dias didn’t make the decision to take time off easily. Dias has publicly stated in the past that he intends to retire at the end of his third term at the Unifor convention Aug. 8-12 in Toronto.

Unifor is the union that represents autoworkers in Canada. Dias, known for his pragmatic and tough style, has led the union for nine years.

A memo written by Lana Payne, Unifor’s national secretary-treasurer, said Dias took time off Feb. 6 to deal with health issues.

“Jerry did not make the decision to take this leave easily, and we hope you will respect his privacy,” Payne wrote. “We all wish him well. While on leave, Jerry will not be taking on the responsibilities of the President’s office.”

Lana Payne, Unifor National Secretary-Treasurer, will replace Unifor National President Jerry Dias while on sick leave.

Payne, who is the highest ranking officer, will replace Dias. She will work with the elected leadership team to ensure that the work of the union continues in accordance with the Unifor constitution, Payne wrote.

Dias is best known for his battle with GM at the end of 2019-20. The automaker announced at the end of 2018 that it would permanently close the assembly plant in Oshawa, Ontario.

Dias launched an aggressive campaign for GM to save the Oshawa Assembly, located about 40 miles east of Toronto near the shore of Lake Ontario. 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 a previous interview. He was referring to multiple protests by Unifor workers at GM Canada headquarters.

Dias also called for a boycott of the purchase of GM vehicles made in Mexico and launched a negative media campaign.

Continued:Here’s how the Canadian Auto Workers Union won big with GM, Ford and FCA

Continued:Documentary takes aim at GM’s decision to close Oshawa assembly plant

“There’s no doubt there was a lot of animosity around it,” Dias said.

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 accused Dias of not 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.

The first pickups arrive on the assembly line at Oshawa Assembly in Ontario on November 10, 2021.

GM spokesman David Barnas declined to comment on the news of Dias’ sick leave, saying: “As this is a private health matter and in accordance with his wishes, he would not be appropriate for us to comment.”

Stellantis spokeswoman LouAnn Gosselin said in a statement, “Stellantis wishes Jerry the best as he takes time off from work to focus on his health.”

Steve Majer, Vice President of Human Resources, Ford Motor Co. of Canada, said, “We have worked with Jerry Dias for many years and wish him well.

Payne assured Unifor members that the union will remain strong even as Dias deals with his health issues.

“This remains a difficult time for workers,” Payne wrote. “The global pandemic continues to disrupt lives and livelihoods and our union’s work to protect members will continue uninterrupted.”

Staff reporter Eric D. Lawrence contributed to this report.

Contact Jamie L. LaReau at 313-222-2149 or [email protected]. Follow her on Twitter @jlareauan. Learn more about General Motors and subscribe to our automotive newsletter. Become a subscriber.

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