Ex-Unifor president Dias accused of accepting funds from COVID test supplier, enters rehab
The former head of Canada's largest private-sector union has entered a rehab program after being charged with breaching Unifor's constitution by accepting funds from a third-party supplier.
Unifor leaders said Wednesday that Jerry Dias, who recently resigned as union president ahead of the union announcing an investigation into his actions, is accused of accepting $50,000 in Canadian money (about $39,700 U.S.) from an unnamed supplier of COVID-19 rapid tests that he promoted to employers of his members. Several employers purchased the tests, Unifor said. Dias told the union, which represents workers for the Detroit Three automakers in Canada, that he gave a Unifor employee half of the funds and told the employee it came from a supplier.
Unifor did not identify the COVID-19 test supplier. The union also would not identify the employers Dias pitched the tests to, saying they were unaware of "Dias’ personal interest in the transactions," the union said.
Spokespeople for Ford Motor Co., General Motors Co. and Stellantis NV said Wednesday their companies had not bought any of the test kits in question.
Unifor's National Executive Board will conduct a hearing, where Dias will be able to present information and arguments concerning the charge. The board could suspend or revoke his membership.
Dias, on the same day Unifor released details of the allegation against him, said he's entering a residential rehabilitation facility and stepping away from his advisory positions.
"This past December, my life took a remarkable turn for the worse when I was confronted with a debilitating sciatic nerve issue," Dias said in a press release. "It's hard for me to say this, but my coping mechanism has been pain killers, sleeping pills and alcohol. These factors have impaired my judgement (sic) in recent months, and I owe it to our members to seek the treatment I need."
An independent external investigation began after Unifor National Secretary-Treasurer Lana Payne received a written complaint on Jan. 26 saying Dias had violated the union's constitution.
That investigator found Dias repeatedly breached the Unifor Code of Ethics "by accepting money from a supplier of COVID-19 rapid test kits that he had introduced to employers of Unifor members," the union said.
Payne told reporters Wednesday the union "sought legal advice on our obligations arising out of this matter. We had advice throughout the process. And now that we have the investigator's report, we will continue to seek legal advice about this and live up to any obligations that we may need to follow through with there."
Dias went on medical leave from his position in February and resigned a month later. It was expected he'd retire in August after the union's constitutional convention, where a new leader will be elected. Dias was elected in 2013 to lead the union and was in his third term when he resigned.
While president, Dias was a consultant to the Canadian government and its negotiating team on the U.S.-Mexico-Canada trade agreement; launched a campaign to save General Motors Co.'s plant in Oshawa, Ontario; and helped workers navigate through the COVID-19 pandemic.
To name a new president in Dias' absence, Unifor will have to hold a special convention ahead of the August convention.
The allegation against Dias comes after the United Auto Workers, representing autoworkers in the U.S., went through a long corruption investigation that showed some UAW leaders stole from members, embezzled money and broke labor laws. The investigation led to 16 people charged and convicted, including former Fiat Chrysler Automobile executives. The UAW is also now under a court-appointed monitor's supervision and review.
Staff writers Breana Noble and Jordyn Grzelewski contributed.