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

An Interior Health nurse administers Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccines to seniors and care aids in Kelowna on Tuesday, March 16, 2021. (Phil McLachlan/Kelowna Capital News)
105 new COVID-19 cases in Interior Health

Just over 8,000 new vaccine doses administered in the region for a total of 158,000 to date

Last year’s flood season stretched from April through early July, as this picture of flooding at Cache Creek park on July 4, 2020 shows. With area snowpacks at slightly above normal, temperatures and rainfall will play a role in determining what this year’s flood season looks like. (Photo credit: Tom Moe)
Snowpacks in area slightly higher than normal as freshet starts

Temperatures and rainfall are critical flood risk factors in coming weeks

The Clinton Annual Ball went ahead in 2020, albeit in a different format and with far fewer guests than usual. (Photo credit: Clinton Annual Ball committee)
Clinton Annual Ball postponed again in 2021, but still carries on

Thanks to some creativity, ball is still the longest continually-held event of its kind in Canada

The 2020 financial statements for Cache Creek show that the village needs to look at either increasing revenues or cutting services in order to maintain a balanced budget. (Photo credit: <em>Journal</em> files)
Cache Creek council advised to increase revenues or cut services

Presentation also shows that continued use of Landfill Legacy Fund for operations is unsustainable

A group of outdoor enthusiasts and heritage buffs learning more about the history of the iconic 1926 Alexandra Bridge during a pre-COVID-19 tour. (Photo credit: Hope Mountain Centre for Outdoor Learning)
A group of outdoor enthusiasts and heritage buffs learning more about the history of the iconic 1926 Alexandra Bridge during a pre-COVID-19 tour. (Photo credit: Hope Mountain Centre for Outdoor Learning)
Major grant will help refurbish historic Alexandra Bridge near Spuzzum

The 1926 bridge, which last saw vehicle traffic in 1964, is major attraction on Fraser Canyon drive

A sea lion swims past the window of an empty viewing area Vancouver Aquarium is pictured Thursday, September 10, 2020. The Vancouver Aquarium has had to close its doors to the public due to the lack of visitors during the COVID-19 pandemic. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
U.S.-based theme park company buys Vancouver Aquarium

Aquarium had to shut its doors in September due to COVID pandemic

A man wears a protective face covering to help prevent the spread of COVID-19 as he walks past the emergency entrance of Vancouver General Hospital in Vancouver, B.C., Friday, April 9, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
COVID-19 spike in B.C. could overwhelm B.C. hospitals: modelling group

There are 397 people are in hospital due to the virus, surpassing a previous high of 374 seen in December

A deep cut on a humpback whale is shown in this recent handout photo in the Vancouver area. A conservation organization is warning boaters to be extra careful to prevent further harm to an injured humpback whale swimming in the Vancouver area. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO, Ocean Wise, Vanessa Prigollini *MANDATORY CREDIT*
Boaters urged to use caution around hurt humpback off Vancouver

Ocean Wise says watchers first noticed the wound 3 days ago and believe it was caused by a vessel strike

Ron Rauch and his wife Audrey are photographed at their home in Victoria, Friday, March 5, 2021. Their daughter Lisa Rauch died on Christmas Day 2019 when a tactical officer with the Victoria Police Department shot her in the back of the head with plastic bullets after barricading herself in a room that was on fire. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
B.C. families push for changes as special committee examines provincial Police Act

Solicitor General Mike Farnworth acknowledged the need to update the legislation last year

Major-General Dany Fortin, left, looks on as Minister of Public Services and Procurement Anita Anand provides an update on the COVID-19 pandemic, in Ottawa, Tuesday, Dec. 15, 2020. The Public Health Agency of Canada has set aside up to $5 billion to pay for COVID-19 vaccines. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Canada negotiating contracts to secure COVID-19 booster shots for next year: Anand

Most of Canada’s current vaccine suppliers are already testing new versions against variants

Demonstrators at the legislature on April 14 called on the province to decriminalize drug possession and provide widespread access to regulated safe supply across B.C. (Jake Romphf/News Staff)
Rally calls for decriminalization, safe supply on 5th anniversary of overdose emergency declaration

From 2016 to the end of February, 7,072 British Columbians died due to overdose

(Government of Canada)
Liberal MP caught stark naked during House of Commons video conference

William Amos, in Quebec, appeared on the screens of his fellow members of Parliament completely naked

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry updates B.C.’s COVID-19 situation at the B.C. legislature, Feb. 1, 2020. (B.C. government)
B.C.’s COVID-19 case count jumps to 1,168 Wednesday, nearly 400 in hospital

Now 120 coronavirus patients in intensive care, six more deaths

Most Read