Canadian drivers and couriers will be represented by Uber Technologies Inc.’s private-sector union, but they will not be unionized.
According to the company’s announcement, the United Food and Commercial Workers Canada (UFCW) represents at least 250,000 workers in companies such as Maple Leaf Foods Inc., Loblaw Companies Ltd., and Molson Coors Beverage Co.
In the event that Uber drivers and couriers request UFCW Canada’s assistance in resolving account deactivations and other problems, the union will represent about 100,000 Canadian workers.
Both Uber and UFCW Canada will pay for workers’ legal representation; workers will not be charged for this service.
The release from Uber’s senior vice president of global rides and platform added, “We’ve come together to find common ground and blaze a new trail towards a better future for app-based workers.”
What drivers and delivery employees tell us they want is what we’re prioritizing in this agreement—enhancing flexibility to work when and where they want together with a stronger voice and enhanced benefits and protections.
Independent contractors, such as Uber drivers and couriers, are free to work when, when, and how frequently they want. However, they are deprived of benefits such as job stability, vacation money, and sick leave.
Delivery workers’ advocacy group Gig Workers United was disappointed that no one had consulted them.
“This is merely a sham of a unionization effort. Brice Sopher, a Toronto UberEats courier representing the group, said this is an illusion of workers’ representation, but it is not.
Rather, “it is more so to give Uber the protection, the veneer of being progressive, while they will continue probably to push for the regressive rolling back of worker’s rights.”
In the wake of mounting international pressure on the company to at the very least properly compensate and give greater rights to couriers and drivers, he made these remarks.
As an example, Samara Belitzky, a lawyer for Samfiru Tumarkin, is representing Uber Eats courier David Heller in a class-action lawsuit, contending that those working for Uber should be entitled to minimum wage, vacation pay, and other safeguards under Ontario’s Employment Standards Act.
Belitzky doubts that Thursday’s accord will have a significant impact on workers.
Although it appears to grant the drivers some more rights or benefits on paper, she asserted that this isn’t the case in practice.
Additionally, the deal poses conflicts of interest because Uber will be footing the bill for legal representation in the case.
As an Uber driver, “I’d be concerned about where their interests might lie,” she said.
He also pointed out that UFCW previously detailed on its website the various complaints it had with Uber but that text has subsequently been changed with specifics of the agreement.
According to her, “This may be Uber’s attempt to tamp down the concerns of the union.”
For many Uber drivers, the app requires them to spend more than 100 hours per week on it in order to get work, which means they’re paid less than the minimum wage.
Moreover, it has been complained that drivers are deactivated if their ratings – scores are given by customers – fall below a specific level of satisfaction. Drivers may lose their jobs if they don’t comply with customers’ demands to flout traffic laws or city ordinances, according to UFCW Canada.
Additionally, the union has expressed worry about the lack of recourse Uber workers have when they are subjected to harassment and abuse on the job because they are not entitled to workers’ compensation or other protections.
This agreement between UFCW and Uber will persuade the provinces to enact policies that provide new benefits and rights for gig workers.
Canadian Union of Food and Commercial Workers National President Paul Meinema stated that “this is just the beginning of many issues we need to address” in a video announcement of the deal.
We will work together to ensure that workers in the app-based sector have access to minimum-wage guarantees, a benefits fund, and a path to unionization.”
Uber has been promoting its “Flexible Work+” strategy to Canadians. It encourages provinces and territories to compel app-based businesses to form a self-directed benefit fund that can be distributed to employees for prescription drugs, dental and vision care, RRSPs, or tuition.
Despite the model’s promise of more safeguards, workers say it doesn’t go far enough and accuse Uber of exploiting the pitch to avoid designating drivers and couriers as employees.
(Deschamps, Uber Canada signs deal with union offering workers dispute representation 2022)