TORONTO — Former Unifor president Jerry Dias was not charged as the result of an investigation launched last year into allegations that the longtime union leader accepted a bribe, Toronto police said Thursday.
The police's financial crimes unit began investigating the former president of Canada’s largest private sector union last spring after the union handed over money Dias allegedly accepted from a supplier of COVID-19 rapid test kits he promoted to members. Police said Thursday that the investigation has been concluded.
Unifor at the time charged Dias with violating the code of ethics and democratic practices of the union's constitution, and said a hearing would be held before the national executive board.
Unifor’s director of legal and constitutional matters Anthony Dale said in a statement Thursday that the union’s own matters relating to Dias have been concluded to its satisfaction and he will no longer be subject to a hearing process under the union’s constitution. He said Dias is no longer a Unifor member, and so the union's constitution and hearing processes no longer apply to him.
Dias said in a statement that he reached a "satisfactory legal settlement" with Unifor. Dale characterized it as an "understanding."
Dale said the union was informed by police at the end of 2022 that no criminal charge would be laid, but the union’s own conclusion was unrelated to the police investigation.
Dias said that these developments “reinforce what I have always known to be true: that over my 45-year career, I have consistently acted with integrity and in the best interests of Unifor members.”
Dias said the allegations against him were not true.
“I have never made a dime outside of my salary with Unifor, and I have always lived by the union’s Code of Conduct,” he said.
“In saying this, it is time to move on with my life.”
Dale said the union stands by the findings of its independent investigator's report on which its allegations were based.
The union had said Dias allegedly gave a Unifor employee $25,000, which he said was half of the money from the supplier, and the employee subsequently filed a complaint under the Unifor code of ethics and delivered the money to the union.
Dias committed to entering a rehabilitation facility in the wake of the incident, saying his use of painkillers, sleeping pills and alcohol to deal with a sciatic nerve issue had impaired his judgment.
Dias began a medical leave on Feb. 6, 2022, around a week after being notified about the union's independent investigation into the matter. He was already set to retire that year, but did so early.
Dias said Thursday that he has received medical attention to deal with “serious health issues including debilitating sciatica,” and has also received assistance to eliminate his dependence on opioids to deal with pain. He said he regrets the distraction to members, and thanked those who reached out to him.
Dias had been the president of Unifor since 2013 when it was created as a merger between two unions. He was an outspoken figure of the labour movement in Canada, playing an key role during the negotiation of the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement and the successful fight to reopen the General Motors plant in Oshawa, Ontario.
In an election in August 2022, former national secretary-treasurer Lana Payne was elected the new president of Unifor, running against Dias’ former executive assistant Scott Doherty, as well as Dave Cassidy, president of Unifor Local 444.
Dias said in the statement that he is proud of his work as Unifor’s first president.
“While I will no longer be leading the actions on the picket lines and at the bargaining table, I will always be Unifor’s number one supporter.”
— With files from Tara Deschamps
This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 25, 2023.
Rosa Saba, The Canadian Press