UPDATE: Union calls for ride-hailing drivers to be entitled to benefits

Matthew Fraser / December 2nd, 2019
Updated December 3rd, 2019

The app for “Uber” is one of the popular options when it comes to ride-hailing.
(Stock Catalog / Flickr)

United Food and Commercial Workers local 1518, the union representing ride-hailing drivers in Canada, is asking the Labour Relations Board of BC to consider drivers employees instead of independent contractors.

Given employee status, drivers would be protected by the province’s labour laws around safety. They would also receive minimum wage, and other benefits that come with the position like paid sick days, vacation, and health coverage in accordance with the Employment Standards Act.

“All workers deserve the minimum protections afforded by BC’s Employment Standards Act, deserve to be treated fairly, and are entitled to earn a minimum wage.” – Kim Novak, UFCW 1518 President

As independent contractors, drivers for ride-hailing companies like Uber or Lyft currently lack these benefits.

UFCW 1518 President, Kim Novak, explained the union’s submission to the board by highlighting the protections afforded by B.C.’s Employment Standards Act.

“We filed our submission with the Labour Relations Board because we think it is imperative that ride hailing drivers have the same rights and protections under provincial labour law that all workers in British Columbia have.” – Kim Novak

In a statement to BCIT News, Novak stressed that the submission be implemented as soon as possible, making sure the province can introduce ride-hailing in a smooth manner. She also added that she expects the Labour Board to respond to the union by the end of the week.

“We wanted to be proactive in ensuring that BC gets ride hailing right. In other jurisdictions around the world, where governments have acted after the fact, it has been very difficult to get Uber and Lyft to comply with the law.” – Kim Novak

UFCW 1518 President Kim Novak believes ride-hailing drivers should be treated the same way as other workers in the province.

(Kim Novak / UFCW 1518)

Although ride-hailing has not yet come into service in BC, the alternate travel method is expected to arrive by the end of the year.

EMPLOYEE STATUS WOULD BRING CHALLENGES TO RIDE-HAILING COMPANIES

Granting drivers employee status could bring challenges to the companies they work for.

Ride-hailing services such as Uber or Lyft run their business models based on the use of independent contractors.

University of the Fraser Valley labour expert, Fiona McQuarrie, said this would be a challenge due to the rulings under the Employment Standards Act. The act states an employee is entitled to basic work standards, such as time off and other benefits.

“If the people that work for them are considered employees, they would also have to follow basic work standards set out in the Employment Standards Act.” – Fiona McQuarrie, University of the Fraser Valley labour expert

McQuarrie also added this would increase labour costs for ride-hailing companies.

The independent contractor status for drivers is cheaper for companies than the employee option, which allows them to offer a business model that makes more money.