Doug Ford Appoints Union Leader Jerry Dias to Lead Automotive Task Force

Prime Minister Doug Ford has turned to Jerry Dias, Canada’s most powerful private sector union leader, to help Ontario fight US policies that threaten Ontario’s auto industry.

Dias, the president of Unifor, will lead the province’s push to try to thwart US President Joe Biden’s protectionist moves that favor US-made electric vehicles.

The veteran trade unionist, who advised the liberal federal government during negotiations on the 2019 USMCA free trade agreement with the United States and Mexico, will serve as the unpaid chairman of the new Prime Minister’s Council for Trade and Industry Competitiveness. from the United States.

“I am proud to stand shoulder to shoulder with Jerry Dias as we work together to protect an integrated economy that employs millions of workers on both sides of the border,” Ford said Thursday.

“At a time when we are about to unleash the full potential of Ontario’s auto sector while building an economy that will compete globally, now is not the time to break decades of cooperation and put workers on both sides of the globe. border in danger “.

In a statement, Dias said that “we are at a critical juncture in our relationship with the United States, with coordinated action between the government and workers that is urgently needed to protect jobs and the economy.

“Unifor represents members in multiple sectors that depend on integrated trade with the United States. I look forward to leading this new Council to find solutions on behalf of our members and all workers in Ontario. ”

While Ford works closely with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and other prime ministers to counter Biden’s “American buyout” policies, he wants Ontario to redouble its own efforts to combat protectionist maneuvers.

That’s because the auto industry is the manufacturing backbone of the province, with close to a million cars and trucks manufactured here annually.

“Ontario is the number one place in the world to build the cars and trucks of the future,” he said at a Linamar automotive facility in Guelph on November 17.

“We have the supply chain in place, we have the geographic advantages, and we are blessed with the mineral resources to make the batteries these in-demand new cars will need.”

But the Star reported Nov. 9 that Stellantis, Chrysler’s parent company, will phase out gasoline-powered muscle cars like the Dodge Challenger, which is currently made at its 3,163-employee plant in Brampton.

A replacement electric model is expected to be manufactured in Belvidere, Illinois to take advantage of Biden subsidies, which are worth up to $ 12,500 (US) for domestic buyers of union-built vehicles.

The prime minister has said that Canadian products should “be excluded” from the “buy American products” legislation.

“We are your number one customer. If Ontario were an independent country unto itself, it would be the third largest trading partner, ”Ford said three weeks ago of the US.

“We are the number one business partner of 19 states and number two of another nine. We are connected at the hips, so we must be excluded from that line. “

During a campaign in Windsor last month, Ford emphasized that “Unifor has been an incredible partner” in the talks between Queen’s Park and automakers to bring a huge electric vehicle battery factory to Ontario.

Dias, whose union represents 315,000 workers in 29 different industries, including Toronto Star employees, has acknowledged his differences with Ford’s Progressive Conservatives.

“Look, has this government done things that have made me angry? The answer is yes.

“Are we still debating some of the political initiatives that they have implemented and with which I totally disagree? The answer is yes, ”he said.

“But the bottom line is that I’m here today understanding that we are having a discussion about the minimum wage, recognizing that it is a good start.”

At that event, the prime minister stressed that he wanted to “specifically acknowledge Jerry for his leadership for making today’s announcement possible” because the Unifor president had long been urging him to raise the minimum wage to $ 14.35 an hour.

Robert Benzie is the bureau chief for Star’s Queen’s Park and a reporter covering Ontario politics. Follow him on Twitter: @robertbenzie


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