Uber Canada signs agreement with private sector union offering worker representation in the event of a dispute

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Uber said Thursday it is partnering with a private sector union that will provide representation for Canadian drivers and couriers, but is not organizing workers.DARRYL DYCK/The Canadian Press

Uber Technologies Inc. UBER-N has signed an agreement with a private sector union that will represent Canadian drivers and couriers, but does not organize workers.

The San Francisco, Calif.-based tech giant said Thursday it is partnering with United Food and Commercial Workers Canada, a union representing at least 250,000 workers at companies including Maple Leaf Foods Inc., Loblaw Companies Ltd. and Molson Coors Beverage Co.

The partnership enables UFCW Canada to provide representation to approximately 100,000 Canadian drivers and couriers, at the request of workers, when dealing with account deactivations and other disputes with Uber.

Workers will not be charged for representation, which will be covered jointly by Uber and UFCW Canada.

“We have come together to find common ground and chart a new path to a brighter future for app-based workers,” said Andrew Macdonald, senior vice president of global racing and platform at Uber, in a statement.

“Through this agreement, we are prioritizing what drivers and delivery people tell us they want: improving their flexibility to work if, when and where they want with a louder voice and new benefits and protections. “

Uber drivers and couriers are considered independent contractors because they can choose when, where, and how often they work, but in exchange they have no job security, vacation pay, or other benefits. .

Gig Workers United, a delivery group, was disappointed that the couriers were not consulted.

“It’s the illusion of a union. It’s the illusion of worker representation, but it’s not,” said Brice Sopher, a Toronto-based UberEats courier representing the group.

“It’s more about giving Uber the protection, the veneer of being progressive, when they will likely continue to push for the regressive rollback of workers’ rights.”

His comments come as Uber faces growing global pressure to recognize couriers and drivers as employees and, at the very least, pay them better and give them more rights.

Samfiru Tumarkin’s attorney, Samara Belitzky, for example, is representing Uber Eats courier David Heller in a class action lawsuit arguing that those who work for Uber should be entitled to minimum wage, vacation pay and other protections because they meet the definition of employee under the Ontario Employment Standards Act.

Belitzky doesn’t think Thursday’s deal will have a big impact on workers.

“On paper it looks like it gives very limited additional rights or benefits to drivers, but in practice it doesn’t give them much,” she said.

The deal also raises conflict of interest concerns, as Uber will pay for representation against the company.

“If I was a driver for Uber…I would be a little worried about where their interests lie,” she said.

Belitzky also noted that UFCW previously outlined several issues it had with Uber on its website, but has since replaced that content with the details of the deal.

“Maybe it’s a way for Uber to try to assuage union concerns,” she said.

The UFCW Canada page previously reported that drivers often spend more than 100 hours logged into the Uber app waiting for work each week, leaving them paid well below minimum wage.

He also complained that drivers are liable to be deactivated if their ratings – the scores offered back by consumers – fall below a certain threshold. UFCW Canada said the practice can force a driver off the job if they refuse customer requests to ignore traffic rules or municipal bylaws.

The union has also expressed concern that Uber workers have little recourse when they experience harassment and abuse at work, as they are not eligible for workers’ compensation and other employee benefits. other protections.

As part of the agreement between UFCW Canada and Uber, the two groups will work to encourage provinces to impose policies that provide on-demand workers with new benefits and other rights.

“This is just a starting point for the many issues we need to address,” UFCW Canada national president Paul Meinema said in a video announcing the deal.

“Uber Canada and UFCW Canada will jointly advocate for industry-wide legislative standards like minimum wage guarantees, a benefits fund, a path to unionization and other rights for service sector workers. apps.

Uber introduced Canadians to a model called Flexible Work+. The model asks provinces and territories to require app-based companies to create a self-managed benefits fund to distribute to workers for prescriptions, dental and vision care, RRSPs or tuition.

Workers said the model still wouldn’t offer all the protections they want and accused Uber of using the land to avoid treating drivers and couriers as employees.

Jim Stanford, economist and director of the Center for Future Work, said the Uber-UFCW partnership is an attempt to lend an “air of legitimacy” to Flexible Work+.

“Uber is looking for allies in its powerful lobbying effort to create personalized labor law that fits its business model,” he said.

“Uber is concerned that courts and labor boards will find that their workers are entitled to regular things, including minimum wage…and for Uber, it’s a huge blow to have a union backing its efforts. “

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