Police launch criminal investigation into kickback scandal involving former Unifor president Jerry Dias


Toronto police announced Tuesday, April 5 that they have opened a preliminary investigation into a bribery scandal, involving COVID-19 test kits, which has already led to the resignation of Jerry Dias, the former longtime president of Unifor, Canada’s largest group. private sector union. The investigation is being led by the Toronto Police Financial Crimes Unit.

Unifor President Jerry Dias (WSWS Media)

The police decision follows a March 23 press conference in which Unifor Secretary-Treasurer Lana Payne, speaking on behalf of the union’s national executive, told reporters that a seven-week independent external investigation into Dias’ recent activities has determined ‘overall probability’ that he received a $50,000 bribe from a supplier of rapid COVID-19 test kits . The secret payment to Dias was in exchange for her promoting the kits to “various” employers of Unifor members. A number of these companies subsequently purchased the kit. Throughout the process, Dias, citing health issues, refused to make himself available to outside investigators Unifor had hired.

The scandal first broke when a senior Unifor official – Dias’ aide and close “confidant” Chris MacDonald – informed the union executive on January 26 that Dias had given him a bag containing 25,000 $ on January 20 and said the money was provided by a test kit supplier. According to a recently leaked psychiatric evaluation of Dias, his doctor wrote that the payment to Macdonald was tied to Dias’ decision to endorse Scott Doherty, his right-hand man at Unifor headquarters and close friend, and bypass MacDonald to take the union’s presidency after Dias’ scheduled retirement at the Unifor national convention in August.

“Mr. Dias’ misconduct may be due at least in part to his feelings of loyalty to the person who was not chosen to succeed him,” the leaked report claims. The union’s executive board declined to comment. report or even to release the name of the company that provided the bribe. However, their accusation that Dias violated democratic practices raises many questions, the first of them: the money from the bag Was it intended to prevent MacDonald from declaring his own candidacy for union president or otherwise disrupt Doherty’s planned “coronation”?

The final hearing of the case before the union’s National Executive Board has yet to be scheduled. It is not known if Dias will be present. At most, he could give up his pensioner membership in the union.

The potential punishment for Dias or any other union bureaucrats that police deem to have been involved in criminal acts could be much harsher. Unifor recently announced that it had turned over the $25,000 originally given to MacDonald to the police. The fate of the remaining sums held by Dias is still unknown.

The opening of a police investigation could have deeper and even more explosive ramifications for the union apparatus. The Unifor executive is now losing control of the entire investigation. Subpoenas could be issued to all those involved. Investigations could be launched into other, possibly related, irregularities.

There is no doubt that the Dias kickback scandal barely scratches the surface of the abundant corruption and behind-the-scenes maneuvering that permeates the upper echelons of not just Unifor, but the entire bureaucracy. union. The president of the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) Local 79, which represents 20,000 internal workers in the city of Toronto, was recently forced to resign after claims he helped secure a lucrative appointment for one of his assistants in exchange for under-table payments.

These corrupt relationships are the product of the objective social position of unions as corporate partners of big business and the capitalist state. For the past four decades, Unifor and its predecessors, along with the privileged bureaucrats who lead the rest of the “union movement,” have operated as little more than cheap labor contractors offering workers for exploitation. ruthless, and as a workplace police force for the employers and governments tasked with suppressing the class struggle.

The extent of corrupt relationships resulting from unions rendering services to bosses has been most starkly exposed by the United Auto Workers (UAW) corruption scandal, which has led to two of the last four UAW presidents to end up in jail. The corruption scandal, which first came to light in 2017 and led to the conviction or indictment of 11 union officials, revealed that UAW officials received millions in bribes of Fiat-Chrysler in exchange for the imposition of contracts favorable to the company. Investigations have uncovered a cesspool of bribes and embezzlement. “Illicit funds, whether from bribes, kickbacks or stolen workers’ dues, have been used to finance months-long stays in Palm Springs, California, golf outings , golf outings, shopping for designer clothes, steakhouse dinners, and premium liquor and cigars, as well as other extravaganzas,” such as the World Socialist Website Noted.

In light of the recent exposure of Dias’ own corruption cases, it’s not hard to see why he and other senior Unifor officials had no say in the corruption scandal that engulfed their counterparts. Americans. They preferred to maintain a studied silence, lest too many questions be asked about their own “extravagances.”

Dias’ abrupt departure from the union’s presidency means Unifor must hold a special conference to appoint his successor before its regular convention in August. Speculation is rife that Dias’ retirement, which was announced days before the union executive was to admit he was involved in taking bribes, was intended to limit the time for any “foreign” candidate to gain ground in a months-long campaign for the presidency.

Dave Cassidy, president of Windsor Autoworkers Local 444, entered the race shortly after the executive board, at Dias’s urging, endorsed Doherty. Cassidy denounced the union’s practice of “anointing” its presidents and electing them unopposed. Cassidy’s call for union “transparency” is designed to open up an electoral avenue against Doherty among the membership and, in doing so, prevent an irrevocable bottom-up severance from the entire rotten organization.

Cassidy’s feigned opposition to this “anointing” process is a sham. As he told reporters, he also sought support from senior union officials. “I went to Jerry and said to Jerry, Jerry, I’ve been supporting you for 20 years. I expect you to support me. And that didn’t happen,” he said. “It’s like that.”

Cassidy then remarked that he does not recall a time when an election for president of Unifor (or the former Canadian Auto Workers union) was contested. In almost every “election,” a conclave of union officials, their cronies, and a shrinking minority of rank-and-file workers comprising no more than 2,000 delegates out of 315,000 members are asked to automatically approve the uncontested choices. of bureaucracy. Cassidy would no doubt have liked this procedure to continue, as long as he was the “anointed” candidate.

The Unifor executive has yet to lift its “pause” on campaigning or announce the date for the emergency election.

Either way, Doherty and Cassidy are imbued with the nationalist, corporatist outlook that is the hallmark of contemporary unions, that is, organizations that have abandoned all association with the struggle of the working class. As such, they have been intimately involved in Unifor’s efforts to attract “investment” by imposing concessions, job cuts and acceleration, while pitting workers in Canada against their class brothers and sisters. in the United States, Mexico and elsewhere.

The political corollary to this has been Unifor’s support for various right-wing capitalist parties, from the Bloc and the Parti Québécois in Quebec, to the federal and Ontario Liberals and the New Democrats. Unifor is one of the architects of the “confidence and supply agreement” under which the federal NDP pledged to “ensure stability” – that is, to keep in power – the government Justin Trudeau’s pro-austerity, pro-war liberal for the next three years.

Workers who have seen Doherty and Cassidy’s activities as union officials firsthand will have already taken their measure. Doherty was the chief negotiator leading the disastrous six-month struggle of workers at the Saskatchewan FCL oil refinery that ultimately saw more than $20 million in pension concessions, job cuts and the total gutting of the existing contract. At one point, Doherty admitted that he and the local president risked being “beaten” by the members for the concessions they had given to the company. As for Cassidy, he led no fight against the elimination of more than 4,000 permanent jobs at the Windsor Stellantis assembly plant. Speaking like a business leader, Cassidy sadly bowed to a recent announcement of 1,500 job cuts as a mere “business decision”.

The denunciation of Dias as a corrupt bribe taker and the unseemly scramble to fill his shoes by longtime bureaucrats underscores the fact that workers cannot take a single step forward at Unifor or one of the other rotten unions that still call themselves unions. Workers need new, truly democratic grassroots-controlled organizations that refuse to bend to the prerogatives of management and fight for what workers really need to live, including secure jobs, decent wages and fully-fledged pensions. financed. Workers must build a network of rank-and-file committees to democratically decide their demands and coordinate a struggle across factories, workplaces and national borders to put the vast resources of society at the disposal of the working class instead. than a handful of billionaires.


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