Canadian autoworker union leader taking time off for 'health issues'

Kalea Hall
The Detroit News

Jerry Dias, the union president representing Detroit Three autoworkers in Canada, is taking time off for his health, according to social media posts he made Wednesday afternoon and a memo sent to union local presidents. 

The Unifor president has been on leave for health issues since Feb. 6, according to the memo sent last week by Lana Payne, Unifor's national secretary-treasurer.

Dias has been president of Canada's largest private sector union since 2013, when he was first elected. He was re-elected in 2016 and 2019, according to the union's website. Unifor represents more than 315,000 workers across several sectors including the auto industry. The union represents workers at General Motors Co., Ford Motor Co. and Stellantis NV plants in Canada.

"Jerry did not make the decision to take this leave easily, and we hope that you will respect his privacy," Payne wrote. "We are all wishing him well. While on leave, Jerry will not be carrying out the responsibilities of the Office of President."

Payne and other union leaders will work together "to ensure the important work of our union carries on, in accordance with Unifor’s constitution."

Dias wrote Wednesday on Facebook and Twitter: "Hello Unifor family. My page will be a little quiet for a while. I am taking some time off to deal with some health issues. I have every confidence the Unifor leadership team and staff will continue the important work of the union in my absence."

In 2018, Dias led a campaign to save the GM Oshawa plant, which was slated for closure. After further Unifor negotiations, GM has since restarted truck production at the plant with a $1.3 billion investment. In 2020 negotiations with the Detroit Three, Dias secured a total investment of nearly $6 billion for auto facilities across Canada, according to the union.

Dias could not be reached for comment late Thursday. 

He has stated publicly that he intends to retire when his third term ends at the Unifor convention this August.