100,000 Canadian Uber drivers dream and press on
Uber drivers in Canada, who are mostly immigrants, have been clamoring for better pay, work benefits and improved employment conditions for many years. The working conditions for Uber drivers are poised to improve soon.
Uber Technologies Inc. has signed an agreement with a private sector union that will provide representation to Canadian drivers and couriers, but doesn’t unionize workers.
Through this agreement, Uber will prioritize new benefits and protections for drivers and delivery people, as well as enhancing their flexibility to work if, when and where they want, according to Andrew Macdonald, Uber’s senior vice-president of global rides and platform.
Uber is partnering with United Food and Commercial Workers Canada, a union representing at least 250,000 workers at companies including Maple Leaf Foods Inc., Loblaw Companies Ltd. and Molson Coors Beverage Co.
What does the agreement mean for 100,000 Uber drivers?
The partnership will give UFCW Canada the ability to provide representation to about 100,000 Canadian drivers and couriers, if requested by the workers, when they are facing account deactivations and other disputes with Uber. Workers won’t be charged for the representation services, which will be jointly covered by Uber and UFCW.
Uber drivers and couriers are considered to be independent contractors because they can choose when, where and how often they work, but in exchange, they have no job security, vacation pay or other benefits.
The move to offer Uber workers more supports in Canada comes as the tech giant is facing increasing global pressure to recognize couriers and drivers as employees and to, at least, better compensate and give them more rights.
Pressure on Uber
UFCW Canada previously said drivers often spent more than 100 hours logged onto the Uber app and awaiting work each week, leaving them paid well below minimum wage for the hours they spend providing rides. The union has also raised concerns about what little recourse the drivers and couriers have when they face harassment and abuse on the job because they aren’t eligible for workers’ compensation, vacation pay, overtime or pension protection.
Paul Meinema, UFCW Canada’s national president, said “Uber Canada and UFCW Canada will jointly advocate for industry-wide legislative standards like minimum wage guarantees, a benefits fund, a path to organizing and other rights for workers in the app-based sector.”
The Ontario government in response, has also just introduced new legislation that will give these drivers and app-based gig workers “fundamental rights,” including a $15 minimum wage and transparency when it comes to their tips.
The “Digital Platform Workers’ Rights Act” will guarantee a regular minimum wage for individuals employed by app-based services, which they will receive on top of their tips. It also makes it mandatory for workers to receive a recurring pay period and pay day while prohibiting tips from being withheld by platform operators.
Uber vs Uber drivers
A large percentage of Uber workers are immigrants, who are often overqualified. It is estimated that over 80% of them are immigrants.
Most Uber drivers do it as part-time and in between jobs. But many immigrants drive Uber full-time, pending when they find a regular job that also includes benefits.
Uber spent much of last year pitching Canadians on a model it calls Flexible Work+. The model asks provinces and territories to force Uber and other app-based companies to create a self-directed benefit fund to disperse to workers for prescriptions, dental and vision care, registered retirements savings plans or tuition.
Workers have said the model still won’t offer all the protections they desire and accused Uber of using the pitch to avoid treating drivers and couriers as employees.
Uber, meanwhile, claims that they would like to provide their drivers with benefits, but they cannot do so without regional legislation to support it.
The current record-high gas prices will pose more challenges for them, and the debate for better pay and benefits can only get louder.