Former national president Jerry Dias accepted $50,000 from a supplier of COVID-19 rapid test kits that he promoted to employers of Unifor members, several of whom purchased those test kits, Unifor alleged Wednesday.
After an internal investigation, Unifor national secretary-treasurer Lana Payne said Dias stands charged with violating the code of ethics and democratic practices of the Unifor constitution.
“What you’re about to hear will be distressing, but I remind you all that no one member is above our constitution, not the highest ranking elected officers, no one,” Payne said. “We are all equal under that constitution.”
The union’s executive board will now hold a hearing into the matter.
Unifor did not identify the companies who bought the kits or the supplier.
“None of the employers had knowledge of this. As such Unifor will not be identifying them. The supplier was not a participant in the investigation. So we won’t be identifying them either,” Payne said.
The union alleged that at some point before Jan. 20, Dias accepted $50,000 from the supplier.
It said Dias gave a Unifor employee what he said was half of those funds, $25,000, on Jan. 20, telling the employee that it had come from the supplier. The employee subsequently filed a complaint under the Unifor code of ethics and delivered the money to Payne.
In a separate statement to union members, Dias said he is entering a residential rehabilitation facility and stepping away temporarily from all of his advisory positions due to his use of pain killers, sleeping pills and alcohol to deal with a sciatic nerve issue.
He said these factors have impaired his judgment in recent months and is seeking treatment at the advice of his doctor.
“My physician has told me, straight up, that I need help,” Dias said.
The union said Dias was asked to participate in the investigation, however he said, on the advice of his doctor, he has not been able.
“My medical leave was approved by the union in February and a detailed report from my physician has been provided to the investigator. I would have no issue with it being shared with the national executive board,” he said.
The news comes roughly a week after Unifor announced Dias would retire because of ongoing health issues that had already prompted him to take a medical leave.
A day later, Unifor revealed that it had received a complaint about Dias on Jan. 26 that alleged he had breached the union’s constitution.
—The Canadian Press