Dias case highlights need for workplace code of ethics, experts say

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Following allegations against former Unifor National President Jerry Dias, experts say companies should ensure their ethics policies are clearly communicated to employees.

Canada’s largest private sector union alleged this week that its former president accepted $50,000 from a supplier of rapid COVID-19 test kits he had promoted to employers of union members. Several of these companies then purchased these test kits.

Unifor said Dias was accused of violating the code of ethics and democratic practices of the union’s constitution.

Rick Hackett, Canada Research Chair at McMaster University’s DeGroote School of Business, said in an interview that practices such as undeclared payments from preferred vendors or extravagant gifts to customers are against the ethics, but that they are happening even in today’s business world.

“But by its very nature, because a lot of it is secret, I don’t think we have a good idea of ​​what’s going on,” he said.

Hackett also said it’s important for organizations to have a code of ethics in place. But he said it is not enough to simply state the rules in a document once and then forget about them.

“These policies should be regularly communicated to employees,” he said.

Chris MacDonald, an associate professor at Ryerson University’s Ted Rogers School of Management, said in an interview that accepting a $50,000 payment _ as Dias allegedly did _ is a blatant example of a type of practice commercial which, at a smaller level, was once relatively common. (Chris MacDonald of Ryerson is not related to Unifor senior executive Chris MacDonald, who has been identified as the whistleblower in the Dias case).

For example, a salesperson might treat a potential customer to an expensive dinner or offer small gifts and freebies in hopes of landing an account, Professor Ryerson explained.

“There’s a reason salespeople do these things, not because they’re looking to waste money, but because they know it works,” MacDonald said.

But he added that while such things may still be relatively common in smaller private companies, large corporations and public companies that are accountable to shareholders have cracked down on giveaways and other questionable sales practices.

“The private sector is increasingly wary of freebies and giveaways, partly because there have been scandals,” he said. “Gone are the days of ‘here’s a case of scotch, Fred.’ Of course it can happen, but it can only happen in silence.”

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