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

In a feature article published April 10, 2021 in The Times of London, ‘headlined British Columbia has what it takes to rival Napa Valley,’ the valley is praised extensively for its natural beauty and wine. (File photo)
From the U.K. with love: Okanagan wine, scenery receives international praise

The Times of London newspaper recently featured the valley in a wine and travel piece

The future of the Eagle Pass Lookout cabin is being discussed. (File photo)
Options presented for future of former Eagle Pass fire lookout in Shuswap

Stakeholders met in 2020 to discuss the restoration, or possible removal of the cabin

FILE — In this March 31, 2021 file photo, a nurse fills a syringe with a dose of the Johnson & Johnson’s one-dose COVID-19 vaccine at the Vaxmobile, at the Uniondale Hempstead Senior Center, in Uniondale, N.Y. The U.S. is recommending a “pause” in administration of the single-dose Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine to investigate reports of potentially dangerous blood clots. In a joint statement Tuesday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Food and Drug Administration said it was investigating clots in six women in the days after vaccination, in combination with reduced platelet counts. (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer, File)
72 new COVID-19 cases in Interior Health

This brings the total number of cases in the region to 9,666 since the pandemic began

The Literacy Alliance of the Shuswap Society will be expanding its offerings to seniors this year and hopes to return its Cyber Seniors program when one-to-one training is once again allowed. (Photo contributed)
Shuswap organization aims to help seniors become more cyber savvy

BC Hydro report finds seniors reluctant to use

The Salmon Arm RCMP are investigating a Saturday, April 10 gathering at Blackburn Park for provincial health order violations. (Jim Elliot/Salmon Arm Observer)
Salmon Arm RCMP investigating Blackburn Park rally

Police say more than 200 people in attendance

Restaurant patrons enjoy the weather on a patio in Vancouver, B.C., Monday, April 5, 2021. The province has restricted indoor dining at all restaurants in B.C. due to a spike in COVID-19 numbers. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
B.C.’s COVID-19 indoor dining, drinking ban extending into May

Restaurant association says patio rules to be clarified

A dumpster was on fire behind a residential complex in downtown Penticton Tuesday afternoon. (Brennan Phillips Western News)
Dumpster fire extinguished in downtown Penticton

There has been a string of dumpster fires lately

Skogie’s Express Tunnel Wash on Anderson Way in Vernon. (Submitted photo)
Lawsuit dismissed after vehicle damaged while inside Okanagan car wash

Civil Resolution Tribunal dismisses driver’s claim following a collision inside Skogie’s car wash in Vernon

(Mayor Cindy Fortin - Peachland)
Peachland mayor declines early vaccination offer

Mayor Cindy Fortin said she wants seniors, immunocompromised individuals to get the shot first

B.C. Premier John Horgan speaks at the B.C. legislature. (B.C. government)
Tougher COVID-19 restrictions in B.C., including travel, still ‘on the table’: Horgan

John Horgan says travel restrictions will be discussed Wednesday by the provincial cabinet

NorKam secondary student Karis Wilson in the outfit that got her sent home from school on Feb. 23, 2021. (Kamloops This Week photo)
Clothing that ‘detracts from learning process’ removed from SD73 student dress code

Policy change underway after student in knee-length dress, long-sleeve turtleneck sent home

Conservation officers caught three men over fishing bull trout in Kinbasket Lake. (Facebook)
B.C. men fined $1.7K for overfishing near Revelstoke, Golden

The seized fish were donated to the Golden Food Bank

A shop up on Grand Oro Road near Twin Lakes burned down on Monday. (Facebook)
Fire rips through shop in small South Okanagan town

The building was destroyed despite community efforts to fight the fire

WATCH: Conservation group releases short doc on saving South Okanagan’s ‘precious’ Sickle Point

Sickle Point, the last intact wetland near Skaha Lake, is facing the prospect of development

Most Read