August 20, 2019 4:46 pm
Updated: August 22, 2019 7:00 pm

Unifor head tells union’s media members he hears concerns about Tory-bashing but won’t stop

Unifor National President Jerry Dias holds a news conference after meeting with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Tuesday, November 27, 2018.

THE CANADIAN PRESS/Fred Chartrand
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Unifor head Jerry Dias has written to media members of his union, telling them he hears the concerns many have been voicing about how his partisan attacks on conservative politicians reflect on them — but won’t stop his rhetoric during the upcoming campaign.

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In a letter sent to media members of Unifor on Monday, Dias said he recognizes many journalists in Unifor are concerned his frequent partisan attacks against the likes of Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer and Ontario Premier Doug Ford cast a negative shadow over the public’s perception of those journalists as unbiased.

Unifor represents roughly 12,000 media workers, including some journalists at Global News, CTV News and the Globe and Mail.

READ MORE: Addition of Unifor to controversial media panel comes under fire in question period

“I have heard from some members in the media sector, in particular journalists, who do not like our union’s involvement in politics. I am writing as a courtesy to share with you our plans to aggressively fight to stop a wave of anti-worker conservatives from taking away our rights and your jobs,” Dias wrote.

“We do not tell members how to vote but I will be speaking out against the Conservative Party.”

WATCH BELOW: Conservatives accuse Liberals of disrespecting journalists with Unifor inclusion on media panel

Its not the first time Dias has rejected concerns that his rhetoric hurts the journalists he is supposed to represent.

He brushed off questions about those concerns earlier this year during an interview on Global’s The West Block, telling host Mercedes Stephenson that he is entitled to say whatever he wants.

“The whole argument is about journalistic integrity. It’s about free speech. I’m entitled to my free speech just like everyone else,” he said.

LISTEN: Unifor president Jerry Dias joins Zack Hewitt to discuss his political stance

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That came after the decision by the Liberals to include Unifor as one of eight members on a panel that will advise on new criteria for which media outlets should be eligible for a $600 million bailout package of tax credits and hiring incentives aimed mainly at shoring up struggling legacy newspapers.

Global News and other major broadcasters do not qualify for that bailout package.

Much of the criticism about Unifor’s involvement on the panel stemmed from the fact they and Dias have repeatedly billed themselves as the Conservatives “worst nightmare” and as “the resistance” to Scheer.

Journalists have a professional responsibility not to be involved in activities that could create the perception of a conflict of interest.

For those covering politics, that is generally accepted to mean they refrain from engaging in partisan rhetoric or being a member of a political party.

READ MORE: ‘I’m entitled to my free speech’: Dias on Unifor’s anti-Tory stance and the contentious media panel

Dias continued by saying that he has heard repeatedly from a range of current and former media workers about why they feel his rhetoric against conservatives damages their professional reputations and credibility, but that he will keep doing it nonetheless.

“Journalists, my own communications staff, even our Atlantic Regional Director, Lana Payne, a former journalists [sic] have all explained to me why our union’s partisan stance makes some of you uncomfortable,” he wrote.

“I hear you. You have a job to do. Be objective and fearless in uncovering the truth with integrity. My job is to defend your jobs.”

He added: “We all know that what your union says publicly does not impact your objectivity or your journalistic integrity as media workers.”

Dias vowed what he called an “aggressive campaign” against Scheer during the campaign.

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