Help train Unifor boss Jerry Dias was whistleblower over alleged $50,000 payment

Jerry Dias, Unifor president at the time, attends a press conference in Toronto on Oct. 15, 2020.Tijana Martin/The Canadian Press

A long-time assistant to form Unifor president Jerry Dias – Chris MacDonald – was the whistleblower who lodged a complaint against his boss to the union about an alleged $50,000 payment that Mr. Dias accepted.

Mr. MacDonald served as Mr. Dias’s assistant for almost five years. Sources say he was one of his closest confidantes alongside Scott Doherty, another one of Mr. Dias’s assistants. The latter was endorsed by the union for the position of national president in February.

The Globe and Mail is not disclosing the identities of the sources because they are not authorized to speak to the media about internal affairs of the union.

In an e-mail to The Globe, Mr. MacDonald acknowledged that he was the whistleblower and said he never expected to be Mr. Dias’s pick for national president of Unifor. “I was aware for some time before I filed the complaint that I was not the preferred candidate,” he told The Globe.

He went on to say that any suggestion that he was upset or that he filed the complaint for reasons other than the “poor decisions” of Mr. Dias was completely false.

On Wednesday, Unifor announced that they had charged Mr. Dias for breaching the union’s constitution by accepting $50,000 from a supplier of COVID-19 rapid test kits in exchange for promoting it to employers of union members. Several employers purchased the test kits.

The union said it had learned of the alleged payment through a union employee who was handed half of the money, or $25,000 from Mr. Dias. The employee, who The Globe has since learned is Mr. MacDonald, subsequently handed the money to Unifor’s national secretary-treasurer Lana Payne.

Unifor confirmed to The Globe that Mr. MacDonald filed the complaint against Mr. Dias. Mr. Doherty did not respond to a request for comment from The Globe.

The investigation into Mr. Dias’s alleged conduct commenced immediately after Mr. MacDonald reported it to the union on Jan. 20, according to Wednesday’s statement. The union also said that it received the results of the investigation on March 22, upon which it decided to charge Mr. Dias with violating the constitution’s code of ethics.

But during the time Mr. Dias was being investigated, he went on medical leave, citing a sciatic-nerve issue. He told the union he would be commencing medical leave on Feb. 6. On March 11 – after having previously said that he would stay on as president of Unifor until August, 2022 – Mr. Dias abruptly announced his immediate retirement.

In a statement on Wednesday, his first in more than five weeks, Mr. Dias said he would check into a rehabilitation facility for substance-abuse issues. He said he had been coping with the nerve problem through pain killers, sleeping pills and alcohol, all of which had “impaired” his judgment in recent months.

“My physician has told me, straight up, that I need help,” he said in his statement. “That’s why I am entering a residential rehabilitation facility.” Mr. Dias also said he would step away temporarily from all advisory positions.

Property records show that Mr. Dias currently owns three properties – two in Ontario and one in Florida. Mr. Dias owns a house in Milton, Ont. – a suburb of Toronto – that he purchased in February, 2018, for $1.13-million. He also owns a condominium unit in downtown Toronto, near Lake Ontario, that he purchased on Sept. 1, 2021, for $1.2-million. The property record for the condo unit shows that no mortgage was taken out for the purchase of that property.

The property records show that both Mr. Doherty (who had served as Mr. Dias’s assistant since 2015) and Mr. Dias own condominium units in the same building in Fort Myers, Fla.

The Globe reported last week on an e-mail dated Feb. 27 that said Mr. Dias was under investigation by the union. The e-mail was from Dave Cassidy, a senior union member, to members of the national executive board, which includes Ms. Payne.

The union did not make any public statements about the investigation until after The Globe asked about the e-mail and whether it was accurate that Mr. Dias was being investigated.

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