Unifor leader Jerry Dias retires early after going on medical leave

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Published March 14, 2022 at 8:34 am

Jerry Dias is stepping down as Unifor President, effective immediately.

The head of Canada’s largest private-sector union is retiring amid what the organization says is ongoing health issues.

In a statement from Unifor, the union said Dias notified Unifor’s national executive board of his immediate retirement on Friday, just over one month after going on medical leave.

The board will meet in the coming days to determine next steps for leadership of the union, which represents 315,000 workers. Two people have already announced bids for the national presidency: Unifor Local 444 president Dave Cassidy and Scott Doherty, Dias’s executive assistant.

National secretary-treasurer Lana Payne thanked Dias in the statement for his contributions to working people, from his days representing aerospace workers on the shop floor to serving as national president.

Dias says he has all the confidence in leadership, staff and locals to continue to build Unifor into a bold and progressive force.

“After eight and a half years I can proudly say we have built an incredible organization and made Unifor the influential and successful union it is today,” Dias says in the statement.

Dias was elected national president of Unifor following the creation of the union in 2013, after the merger between the Canadian Auto Workers and the Communications, Energy and Paperworkers Union of Canada.

During that time Unifor disaffiliated from the Canadian Labour Congress and has been active on numerous significant political issues, including the negotiation of a new North American free trade agreement.

In 2018, Dias launched the ‘Save Oshawa GM’ campaign after General Motors announced plans to end vehicle production in Oshawa after a century of operations. The campaign included television commercials that aired on the Superbowl and the Grammys. a live concert by international recording artist Sting and the cast of his musical The Last Ship, who performed in solidarity with Unifor members, and a series of mass protests.

In May 2019, Unifor held a joint news conference with GM to announce the plant would be saved, thanks to a $1.3 billion investment in re-tooling the plant and after a transition period (workers made medical masks during the first year of the pandemic) returned to making vehicles last fall.

The Oshawa assembly plant is GM’s only North American plant to build both light and heavy duty pickup trucks.

(Despite all those accomplishments, his legacy in Oshawa is mixed and a move to name a street in the city after Dias was quashed after public outcry.)

Dias also secured nearly $6 billion in total investment for auto plants across Canada during negotiations with the Detroit Three in 2020, including $3.3 billion to introduce battery electric and plug-in hybrid electric vehicle production at the FCA Windsor Assembly Plant and Ford Oakville Assembly Complex.

Dias had previously said he would retire in August, after his third term as national president,  but he stated he is still dealing with health issues.. Two people have already announced bids for the national presidency: Unifor Local 444 president Dave Cassidy, along with Scott Doherty, Dias’s executive assistant.

With files from Glenn Hendry

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