Unifor will hold a special convention to replace former President Jerry Dias as the union proceeds to a hearing into allegations the long-time leader accepted money from a supplier of COVID-19 rapid test kits that he promoted to various Unifor employers.
Secretary-Treasurer Lana Payne detailed the findings of an external independent investigation into Dias at a press conference March 23. She also confirmed the former president’s abrupt exit five months ahead of his planned retirement date will shake up the race to replace him.
“Our constitution requires a special convention when there is a vacancy outside of a certain window,” she said.
As secretary-treasurer, Payne would have assumed the responsibilities of president if Dias had left less than 120 days prior to the union’s triennial convention, which is scheduled for Aug. 8-12 in Toronto. Because Dias’ retirement after 8 ½ years as president came outside this window, Unifor’s National Executive Board (NEB) must organize a vote to elect a new president within 30 days.
“Our board will be dealing with the issues around a special convention when we meet again in a week or two,” Payne added, without specifying what dates may be under consideration.
Unifor, which represents 315,000 workers in Canada, including approximately 40,000 at auto parts suppliers and vehicle assembly plants, uses a delegate system for elections. As opposed to individual members casting ballots, delegates from locals across the country vote on behalf of members, electing top officials to three-year terms.
Following Dias’ nearly three-term tenure, his replacement will become Unifor’s second president. The labour union was formed in 2013, following the merger of the Canadian Auto Workers union and the Communications, Energy and Paperworkers Union of Canada.
Scott Doherty, executive assistant to Unifor’s national president, and Dave Cassidy, president of Unifor Local 444, which represents workers at Stellantis’ Windsor, Ont. Assembly Plant, began campaigns for the presidency in February.
The two candidates, along with any others who may have declared, had expected to face off at the union’s August convention in Toronto, but Dias’ departure will shorten the race considerably.
It will also lead to a second presidential election in August.
Under normal circumstances, the union holds elections at its convention for president, secretary-treasurer and its directors for the Western, Ontario and Quebec regions. Despite the special election confirming a new president just several months earlier, the presidency will be put to another a vote in August.