Citing Lyft and Uber’s controversial labour practices, UFCW (United Food and Commercial Workers) 1518 President Kim Novak said the union has asked the Labour Relations Board of BC to rule that ride-hailing drivers are employees protected by law.
“We have reviewed the terms of Lyft and Uber’s agreements and in our assessment, they are in violation of BC labour laws,” said the UFCW 1518 president. “Time and time again, across the globe, Lyft and Uber drivers have raised concerns that they are forced to work long hours and struggle to earn minimum wage. The contracts that Uber and Lyft are proposing in BC are virtually identical to the ones offered to drivers elsewhere. Many jurisdictions have scrambled to protect workers after the fact; we want to make sure that workers are protected before ride-hailing services launch this year.”
The key issue is whether drivers are considered independent contractors or employees of Lyft and Uber, explained Pablo Godoy, UFCW Canada National Director of Gig and Platform Employer Initiatives. “From New Jersey to Geneva, there are countless examples of governments insisting that drivers are entitled to minimum wage, vacation pay and sick leave benefits. But Uber and Lyft have either refused to comply or have left the jurisdiction entirely.”
Earlier this month, the state of New Jersey ordered Uber to pay $650 million in unemployment taxes because the government considers drivers to be employees. Uber responded by ignoring and appealing the decision. In Geneva, when the local government ruled that ride-hailing drivers are employees, Uber responded by threatening to leave the city. In California, Lyft and Uber set aside $90 million to fight a state law that designates drivers as employees.
“Rather than comply with the law, these ride-hailing companies ignore it and that is completely unacceptable here in BC,” said Godoy. He added that a UFCW Canada campaign to secure justice for Uber drivers is also underway in Ontario, where hundreds of Toronto Uber drivers joined the union.
UFCW 1518’s BC campaign is supported by the BC Federation of Labour, which wrote to the Provincial Transportation Board and requested that as a condition of approval, all ride-hailing applicants acknowledge that drivers are employees. “There is no doubt that deeming drivers to be employees would ensure a safer ride for everyone – driver and passenger – because this is also a public safety issue,” President Novak commented.
President Novak also pointed to support from BC Labour Minister Harry Bains, who publicly stated that his Ministry regards ride-hailing drivers as employees. “You would think that Lyft and Uber would take notice,” she continued. “Instead they are asking drivers in BC to sign contracts that require them not to engage in collective actions. This is completely unacceptable. If Lyft and Uber want to operate in our province, they must comply with our employment laws. We know at least 17 other companies have applied to offer ride-hailing services in BC, so the options will certainly be abundant. And we have the same expectation of all: they must comply with the law and uphold employment standards for drivers in our province.”
UFCW Local 1518 represents 24,000 members working in the community health, service, retail, industrial, and professional sectors across British Columbia.