Unifor alleges former president Jerry Dias took $50,000 from supplier of COVID-19 test kits

An investigation into former Unifor President Jerry Dias found he accepted $50,000 from a supplier of rapid COVID-19 test kits, the union says.

Unifor Secretary-Treasurer Lana Payne said Wednesday Dias then promoted the kits to employers of union members, many of whom purchased them.

On Jan. 20, Dias gave $25,000 to a Unifor employee, whom the union does not name, telling the employee it came from the supplier. That employee filed a complaint under the union’s code of ethics and returned the money to the union, Payne said.

After the union’s investigation, conducted by an independent external investigator, Dias is accused of violating Unifor’s code of ethics and democratic practices, which is contained in its constitution. The Unifor board of directors will now hold a hearing on the matter.

Just before Payne and other Unifor officials announced their findings, Dias released a statement saying he was entering a residential rehab center due to his use of alcohol, painkillers and sleeping pills.

Dias retired earlier this month citing medical issues. “These factors have impaired my judgment in recent months, and I owe it to our members to seek the treatment I need,” Dias said in the statement.

“Unifor has been my reason to get out of bed for almost a decade. The union has been my whole life,” he said. “But now it’s time for me to listen to my doctor and put my health first.”

Dias was asked to participate in the investigation but declined, citing medical issues, so the investigator had to use witness statements to make his decision, Payne says.

Unifor’s National Executive Board held a press conference on Wednesday in which it said Dias violated the union’s code of ethics and democratic practices. (Thomas Daigle/CBC)

Shortly after Dias resigned, Unifor publicly announced that it was investigating whether or not he violated the union’s constitution.

Unifor did not identify the entities that purchased the kits, or the supplier.

There is no information that leads the union to believe there could be any other incidents, Payne said.

The investigation is not currently a criminal investigation, but the union has sought legal advice, she said.

Dias’ departure sparked the need for an election to replace him, but Payne says the union’s board decided to suspend the campaign to deal with the investigation.

Dias was Unifor’s first national president.

He was elected following its creation in 2013, after the merger between the Canadian Auto Workers and the Communications, Energy and Paperworkers Union of Canada, which made Unifor the largest union in the private sector in the country.