An Uber Eats courier is pictured as they pick up an order for delivery from a restaurant in Toronto on February 27, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette

An Uber Eats courier is pictured as they pick up an order for delivery from a restaurant in Toronto on February 27, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette

Uber Canada workers oppose company’s new pitch to provinces, say it lacks fair pay

Gig workers say Uber’s proposal allows company to continue to avoid treating its couriers and drivers fairly

Uber Technologies Inc. wants provinces to force the tech giant and other app-based companies to offer gig workers some benefits through a new proposal, but an advocacy group says the plan will still leave them paid less than minimum wage and with no job security.

Uber’s pitch was unveiled Wednesday and is called Flexible Work+. It asks provinces to require app-based gig employers to accrue self-directed benefit funds that can be dispersed to drivers for prescriptions, dental and vision care and provide safety training and tools like reflective vests.

Uber workers are currently classified as independent contractors who are not required to be given benefits or minimum wage like employees would be under provincial laws.

Gig workers and employment lawyers say Uber’s new proposal allows the company to continue to avoid treating its couriers and drivers fairly and to keep them in a state of precarity.

“They can lock us into an arrangement that is only for their benefit and that doesn’t benefit us at all,” said Brice Sopher, an UberEats worker in Toronto and representative for Gig Workers United, an advocacy group for delivery workers in Canada.

“(The proposal) doesn’t address any of the real issues that workers have been talking about.”

Sopher’s group has long been advocating for app-based companies like Uber to offer a living wage, sick pay and more stability to workers.

Uber has fought those requests by arguing that workers want flexibility to choose when, where and how often they work and don’t want to be tied to formal schedules that could come with traditional employment.

The company has been trying to further solidify that position across the globe in recent months. It spent millions last year to convince Californians to vote in favour of Proposition 22, which allowed them to continue to classify couriers and drivers as independent contractors rather than employees.

Sopher and Joshua Mandryk, a labour lawyer at Goldblatt Partners in Toronto, see the Canadian proposal as a continuation of Proposition 22, which passed in November’s election despite union opposition.

“Canadians should not be fooled,” said Mandryk.

“Uber has framed this proposal as a magnanimous bestowing of benefits when it really appears to be about carving their drivers out of basic employment standards protections like the minimum wage.”

Samara Belitzky, a lawyer at Samfiru Tumarkin LLP, said that if Uber workers were considered employees it would have to offer minimum wage, vacation pay and protected, parental and medical leave. Workers would be able to access compensation in the event of workplace injuries and would get unemployment benefits, she added.

“Uber realizes that the way … they’re misclassifying drivers as contractors when they’re really employees is not necessarily working out, and so they are now spending the time to get the government involved to change the law so that they can kind of have their cake and eat it too,” said Belitzky, whose firm is currently pursuing a class-action lawsuit against Uber.

When Uber unveiled its proposal, the company’s senior vice-president of global rides and platform pushed back on views like Belitzky’s.

“Our view is our current employment system is outdated, unfair and somewhat inflexible and some workers get benefits and protections and others don’t,” Andrew MacDonald told The Canadian Press.

“We feel that COVID has exposed some of those fundamental flaws and think this is a good opportunity for change.”

READ MORE: Uber Canada seeks labour model allowing it to provide benefits to drivers, couriers

Uber is pursuing the model, he said, rather than existing ones because an October survey of more than 600 Uber couriers and drivers in Canada showed 65 per cent favoured Flexible Work+. Roughly 16 per cent still like the current independent contractor model and 18 per cent wanted to be classified as employees with benefits.

MacDonald believes workers will like Uber’s idea to offer drivers and couriers in the country access to funds that they can spend on prescriptions, dental, or vision care and potentially even RRSPs or tuition.

Uber envisions drivers and couriers getting to decide how to use the money, which could be allocated based on hours worked, and it would also look at sending drivers and couriers equipment like safety vests or phone mounts.

UberEats courier Spencer Thompson sees the pitch as “a step in the right direction,” but wishes it addressed wages. He claims pay changes Uber made last summer resulted in some courier’s earnings dropping to $3.99 from $10 per trip before tips during the last year.

“A lot of the drivers, especially more in like the suburbs, would probably want some protections like minimum wage and other employee type benefits,” said Thompson, who has debated quitting the app.

Uber’s pitch includes committing to more transparency around pay and investing more in drivers, but the company wants regulatory changes to be widespread and affect app-based competitors too.

Companies including Lyft and DoorDash said in emails that they support stronger safety measures and benefits for workers, but did not directly comment on Uber’s pitch.

Government officials were just receiving Uber’s proposal Wednesday, but Ontario Labour Minister Monte McNaughton said he was looking forward to tackling the future of work.

A statement from the office of Manitoba Finance Minister Finance Scott Fielding said the province would need more time to evaluate the proposal before weighing in, but said “nothing prevents a company from going above legislated workplace safety and health requirements for its contracted workers.”

— with files from Steve Lambert in Winnipeg and Holly McKenzie-Sutter in Toronto

Tara Deschamps, The Canadian Press


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Want to support local journalism during the pandemic? Make a donation here.

Coronavirusride hailingUber

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Members of the community garden hosted their first seed swap and fundraiser at the Greenwood Mall in Sparwood on Monday. (Scott Tibballs / The Free Press)
Sparwood Community Garden hosts first seed swap

Work on the garden at Engelmann Spruce Drive will begin soon

Crews and volunteers responded to a four-hectare wildfire on the lower half of the Aqam community lands near Cranbrook on Friday afternoon. Trevor Crawley photo.
Wildfire season gets early start in the East Kootenay

Fire crews, volunteers respond to two local wildfires, while prescribed burns turn weekend skies smoky

A conceptual image of a multi-family housing development envisioned by Abugov Kaspar Architects to go on a lot in Castle Mountain in Fernie. (Image courtesy of City of Fernie)
City defers zoning decision

A zoning change would permit a development with 15 percent rental tenure residences in Castle Mountain

Rob and Jennifer King run Sasquatch Cyclery out of their garage. (Soranne Floarea/ The Free Press)
‘Hop on it now’: Parts crunch hits cycling

New bikes are hard to get and used bikes are selling at a premium this year

Michel-Natal-Sparwood Heritage Society runs a museum that was established to display the heritage of the "no-longer towns" of Michel and Natal, and the Elk Valley Area. Photo Submitted/Monica Beranek, Artifact Curator
Sparwood Museum requests a leg up to stay open full-time

The museum is volunteer-run, but needs a full-time employee to be able to snag much-needed grants

Pub patio in Victoria reopens with widely spaced tables, June 2020. Restaurants and pubs across are restricted to take-out and patio service only until May 25 at the earliest. (Tom Fletcher/Black Press)
B.C. extends COVID-19 indoor dining, group fitness ban until May 25

Don’t travel outside your region, Dr. Bonnie Henry warns

Pharmacist Barbara Violo arranges all the empty vials of the Oxford-AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccines that she has provided to customers at the Junction Chemist which is a independent pharmacy during the COVID-19 pandemic in Toronto, on Monday, April 19, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
B.C. to target people ages 40+ in ‘high risk communities’ with AstraZeneca vaccine

A total of 13 neighbourhoods and communities will receive the AstraZeneca vaccine

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Carver Ken Sheen had almost finished work on a large cowboy carving commissioned by the City of Williams Lake to replace the original overlooking the Stampede Grounds when fire broke out Friday, April 18 at his property between Williams Lake and Quesnel. (Pine River Carving Facebook photos)
Cow boss statue destined for Williams Lake Stampede Grounds goes up in flames

Carver Ken Sheen lost the statue, all his tools and his shop in the blaze

B.C. Labour Minister Harry Bains. (Hansard TV)
B.C. moves to protect employee pay for COVID-19 vaccination

Most won’t need to take time off work, labour minister says

New figures show Canadian housing prices outpacing those in other developed countries. (Black Press Media file photo)
Canadian housing prices fastest rising in the world

Relative to 2000, housing prices have risen by a factor of more than 2.5

Russ Ball (left) and some of the team show off the specimen after they were able to remove it Friday. Photo supplied
80-million-year-old turtle find on B.C. river exciting fossil hunters

Remains of two-foot creature of undetermined species will now make its home at the Royal BC Museum

Most Read