Canadian auto union head faces high-stakes fight in GM talks

Mon Sep 19, 2016 8:07pm EDT
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By Susan Taylor

TORONTO, Sept 19 (Reuters) - Canadian autoworkers' union president Jerry Dias once publicly invited a critic to kiss his behind, but the tough-as-nails image overshadows a deft touch in negotiations, people familiar with him said.

Dias, 57 is leading Canadian contract talks for workers of General Motors, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles and Ford Motor Co, whose four-year labor contract expires at midnight.

The Unifor autoworkers' union chose GM as its strike target and is demanding the company commit to producing new vehicle models in its Oshawa, Ontario plant.

Choosing GM as the strike target is a high-stakes gambit, given there is no obvious new vehicle production that could be assigned to Oshawa.

GM has said it will not commit to building new models in Canada until it has a contract in hand. Dias says Unifor will not sign a contract without that promise.

"If we're going to have a dust up, we might as well have it immediately," said Dias, who became Unifor president in 2013.

GM has been the most reluctant of the three automakers to invest fresh money in Canada. The country has seen those dollars go to lower-cost sites in the southern United States and Mexico.

Now, Dias will either lead Canada's first auto strike in 20 years or secure a contract with GM against the odds, which could bolster union confidence as it heads into talks with Ford and Fiat Chrysler.   Continued...