Ford appoints Unifor leader Jerry Dias to Protect Trade Agreements


Jerry Dias, the combative head of Canada’s largest private-sector union, has been tapped by Ontario Premier Doug Ford to head up a group offering advice on how to fight back against American protectionism.

The Ontario government announced on Thursday the creation of the Premier’s Council on U.S. Trade and Industry Competitiveness.

The Council, chaired by Unifor National President Jerry Dias, will provide advice and recommendations on the government’s ongoing efforts to rally business leaders, elected officials, and labour leaders to protect Ontario’s rights under trade agreements and the workers who depend on a secure, prosperous and integrated North American economy.

Vic Fedeli, Minister of Economic Development, Job Creation and Trade and Jerry Dias will work together in the coming days to appoint additional membership to the Council, read a statement.

“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,” said Premier Doug Ford. “At a time when we’re on the cusp of unleashing the full potential of Ontario’s auto sector as we build an economy that will compete globally, now is not the time to rip up decades of cooperation and put workers on both sides of the border at risk.”

Currently, the U.S. Congress is debating protectionist measures that would threaten industries across Ontario, including auto, lumber, steel, agriculture, and more. Of particular importance, these measures would impact auto agreements that began in 1965 with the Auto Pact, were solidified in 1994 by NAFTA, and re-affirmed in 2020 with the Canada-United States-Mexico Agreement. These agreements have brought prosperity and high-skilled, well-paying jobs to workers and communities across North America for more than half-a-century.

“If Ontario were a country, we would be the third-largest trading partner to the United States,” said Minister Fedeli. “The fact is, Ontario is a critical partner to more than half the states of the union. That is why when previous American administrations have threatened to create trade barriers, Ontario has taken a Team Canada approach with our partners, other provinces, and the federal government to successfully secure our trade interests. This new Council, with the full support of our government, will continue to advocate for Ontario against unfair Buy American policies by highlighting the cost of protectionism to businesses on both sides of the border and promoting a Buy North American approach to our auto sector.”

“We are at a critical juncture in our relationship with the United States, with coordinated action between government and labour urgently needed to protect jobs and the economy,” said Unifor National President Jerry Dias. “Unifor represents members in multiple sectors that rely on integrated trade with America. I look forward to leading this new Council to find solutions on behalf of our members and of all workers across Ontario.”

Dias, a veteran union activist, has a colourful history with Ford, including a November press conference where Ford announced a $15 minimum wage, and Dias said it was a good start, but not good enough.

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