Jerry Dias, a veteran of the Canadian Auto Workers, is the first president of the new Unifor union.

The Canadian Auto Workers union and the Communications, Energy and Paperworkers Union of Canada have merged to form a new group called Unifor, which is Canada's largest private sector union.

Dias says he plans to use Unifor's size to influence change labour relations in Canada.

"Unifor is here because it's time to stop playing defence and it's time we started to play offence," said Dias in his fiery inaugural address at Unifor's founding convention in Toronto. "It's time to stop reacting and it's time to start setting the agenda."

Dias seem to be especially focused on labour's relations with the federal government.

"The Conservative government has decided to challenge our democratic right to organize and collect dues. They are singling out unions. They're attacking our finances. They're attacking our ability to represent our members," said Dias.

Dias, who is from Burlington, Ont., was an early favourite to win the presidency of Unifor, and won the election easily with about 87 per cent support.

Dias said he would uphold Unifor's promise to dedicate 10 per cent of its revenues to organizing workplaces and adding new members.

He also said that Unifor would welcome workers traditional excluded from collective bargaining and would seek other ambitious and creative ways to expand membership.

The union will initially represent more than 300,000 workers across roughly 20 sectors of the economy, primarily in manufacturing, communications and transportation.

It will also represent some public sector employees in the health, education and transit sectors.

The CEP and CAW voted last year to join forces, a move they hope will boost the national labour movement.

Officials have said the switch to a non-traditional name -- one that goes beyond simply listing occupations or industries -- signals the union is looking to branch out.