Uber drivers and concert workers lobby Ontario government for employee status

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Ontarians who drive or deliver for apps like Uber, Lyft and Skip the Dishes are calling on Premier Doug Ford’s government to grant them basic workers’ rights by classifying them as employees.

This is a problem that directly affects hundreds of thousands of people who work in the province’s odd-job economy and which could have implications for all workers in Ontario and other provinces.

Hundreds of millions of dollars are at stake and there are clear signs that some sort of action is imminent:

  • Industry sources told CBC News they expect the Ford government to reveal new measures regarding wages and benefits for concert workers soon.
  • Ontario Minister of Labor, Training and Skills Development Monte McNaughton promises legislation by the end of the month as part of “broader efforts to protect and support vulnerable workers, such as those that circulated essential goods and the economy during the pandemic. ”
  • A government-appointed advisory committee is working on recommendations “to ensure workers at Ontario’s technology platforms have flexibility, control and security.”

App companies profit from having a ready workforce, but fail to provide these workers with employee rights and benefits, says Brice Sopher, who delivers for Uber Eats and is group vice president supported by Gig Workers unions. United.

“Right now, there’s nothing stopping Uber, Lyft, DoorDash and these other app-based employment companies from giving us all employee rights. They’re just choosing not to,” Sopher told CBC News. . “They have all the benefits without any of the responsibilities.”

Brice Sopher does delivery work for Uber Eats and is vice president of the Gig Workers United group. (SRC)

Since app-based workers are currently classified as independent contractors under the Ontario Employment Standards Act, they are not entitled to minimum wage, vacation days, or pay. holidays. The companies they work for do not have to pay EI or Canada Pension Plan premiums.

“There is no reason we don’t deserve full employment rights,” Sopher said. “Anything less than this is a lowering of the bar for all workers. ”

Even those whose jobs are outside of the odd-job economy should still be concerned about the problem, Sopher says. He says that if Ontario doesn’t classify app-based workers as employees, companies will be incentivized to convert their existing employees into concert workers, depriving them of their employment rights.

While McNaughton doesn’t promise to classify app workers as employees, he says new protections are on the way.

“There is going to be more to come on this in the days to come,” he said Wednesday in an interview with CBC News.

“It’s not honest, frankly, when we see application-based workers earning $ 3 an hour or something less than minimum wage. They deserve more and we will meet their needs,” he said. McNaughton said.

  • Do you drive or deliver for app companies? Email CBC News if you’re ready to be interviewed about your working conditions.

Uber Canada officials declined an interview request, but a spokesperson emailed a statement to CBC News.

“What’s important is that we prioritize what drivers and delivery people want: flexibility and benefits,” the spokesperson said.

App-based workers want Premier Doug Ford’s government to force companies to provide more transparency on how their pay is calculated. (Carlos Osorio / CBC)

The spokesperson referred to a proposal the company calls Flexible Work +. It would not grant Uber drivers the status of employees with entitlement to minimum wage and paid time off, but would provide a cash benefit fund that workers could tap into for whatever reason, be it a paid day off or to cover the cost of medication.

Uber Canada’s proposal does not commit to how much it would contribute to the benefits fund, but it uses rates of two to four percent of a driver’s income as what it calls ” illustrative examples “.

Whether app-based workers should be classified as employees is at issue in a $ 400 million class action lawsuit against Uber Canada on behalf of its Ontario drivers.

“When you actually look at the relationship and look at the control that Uber has over these drivers in different ways, that’s where you see that there is actually an employee-employer relationship,” said the lawyer in labor law Samara Belitzky.

Belitzky is part of the Toronto law firm Samfiru Tumarkin, which is bringing the class action lawsuit on behalf of the approximately 360,000 people who have driven for Uber in Ontario since 2012.

Tens of thousands of people in Ontario work for app-based transportation and delivery companies like Uber, Lyft, Skip The Dishes and Doordash. (Carlos Osorio / CBC)

Ontario’s Employment Standards Act previously required employers to prove their workers are independent contractors, Belitzky said, but the Ford government changed this when the provincial labor law was struck down in 2018. . The burden of proof is now on the workers.

The Canadian Union of Postal Workers (CUPW) has led app-based attempts to organize workers. Foodora delivery company ceased operations in Canada in the spring of 2020 following such an organizing campaign.

Not classifying workers on stage as employees “currently creates two categories of workers in our company, and we don’t want to,” said CUPW President Jan Simpson.

“If the Ford government really wanted to support workers in a fair economic recovery, they have to get rid of misclassification,” Simpson said in an interview.

Ontario’s Progressive Conservative government is in the midst of a spate of labor rights announcements, with a provincial election looming next June.

McNaughton on Monday revealed measures to tighten the rules for temp agencies and companies hiring foreign workers

Jan Simpson is the president of the Canadian Union of Postal Workers, which has led app-based delivery and driver organizing campaigns. (Canadian Union of Postal Workers)

On Wednesday, he announced plans for ‘right to pee’ legislation, which would ban locations from denying delivery drivers access to their washrooms, a common practice during the pandemic.

While drivers have welcomed this news, many expect much more from the Ontario government.

“There was a time during the pandemic when they could have very easily taken steps to protect concert workers,” Sopher said. “It never happened.”

In particular, app-based workers want more transparency on how their pay is calculated.

“My salary can vary by 50% from day to day,” said Sopher, who delivers exclusively for Uber Eats. “I have no idea how much I’m making per mile or why it’s different at a different time. All of this information is withheld from me.”

The employment status of app-based workers has been a hot issue elsewhere in Canada and the United States

In British Columbia, a union failed in its attempt to classify carpool drivers as employees. This month, the same union said three Vancouver-area Uber drivers were unfairly fired for refusing unsafe work.

The Ontario government has announced plans for “right to pee” legislation, which would prohibit locations from denying delivery drivers access to their washrooms, a common practice during the pandemic. (Ben Nelms / CBC)

During the federal election campaign, Conservative leader Erin O’Toole offered a flexible benefits package for concert workers that echoed some of Uber’s proposals.

In California, Uber, Lyft, and DoorDash have run a campaign to classify app-based workers as contractors, exempting them from state minimum wage and overtime laws. Facilitated by the change, US grocery chain Albertsons laid off delivery people employed by its 2,200 stores earlier this year and replaced its service with DoorDash.

It is not known how many people in Ontario work for application-based companies, but it is certainly in the tens of thousands and there is evidence that it could exceed 100,000.

Pre-pandemic research from Statistics Canada found that 10 percent of the Toronto-area workforce were temporary workers, along with eight to nine percent of the Ontario workforce. This would suggest that some 700,000 people work in the odd-job economy in the province, a significant portion of them driving or delivering for app companies.

Uber Canada said “tens of thousands” of drivers are currently on its platform in Ontario, but declined to provide a more precise estimate, citing competitive reasons.

Statistics Canada 2016 survey data revealed that 36,000 people in Ontario drive for ridesharing apps like Uber.


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