***Update: The Labour Relations Board has set hearing dates with UFCW 1518 and Uber on January 31, February 1, and February 2. Stay tuned for updates on the outcome of that hearing.
UFCW 1518 is taking the cases of several Uber Drivers fired for refusing unsafe work to the Labour Relations Board by filing an unfair labour practice complaint against giant tech corporation Uber.
The Uber drivers claim that they were fired after refusing unsafe work. In one case, a customer threatened to lodge a complaint against a driver and became violent after the driver asked her to wear a mask while she was in his vehicle. The driver phoned the police who had to remove the customer from the driver’s car.
In another incident, a driver refused to take four passengers in his vehicle as doing so violated Uber’s explicit COVID-19 safety regulations. The driver believes that the customer who ordered the trip retaliated against him by leaving a bad review and rating.
Drivers reported that they frequently had to deal with intoxicated and impaired customers who were rude, demanding and insulting. When they asked the riders to tone down their behaviour, the riders indicated that they would lodge formal complaints.
Despite having strong driving records and high customer ratings and reviews, the drivers discovered that the Uber app had been deactivated from their phones following complaints. They attempted to reach Uber support to dispute the complaints but were unable to learn more or tell their side of the story. Uber support did not follow up on requests for review or make further attempts to contact the drivers.
For all of the drivers involved, working for Uber was their chief source of income. The workers had been driving for Uber for several months without incident. One had over 1,000 five-star reviews on his account. These drivers rely on the app to support their families and have felt devastated at losing their jobs without investigation.
“I bought a new car, borrowed money from my friend and planned to start studying for my future, but my livelihood was stolen from me,” explained driver Bhupinder Singh. “It affected my mental health. I was a top star rating driver and completed more than 2,000 trips and with two false and angry customer accusations, Uber deactivated my account without proper investigation.”
Labour Relations Board to Rule on Drivers’ Case
If the Labour Relations Board rules in favour of the UFCW 1518 complaint, the drivers could get their jobs back and earn compensation for the unfair firings.
The union is also seeking changes to the Employment Standards Act to enable app-based workers like Uber drivers to join a union and receive other basic protections. In a letter to Labour Minister Harry Bains and Parliamentary Secretary Adam Walker, UFCW 1518 asked that the Government of British Columbia amend the Employment Standards Act to enable app-based contract workers like Uber drivers to join a union, classify them as employees and allow them to receive other basic protections.
UFCW 1518 has been working with Uber drivers and other workers in the gig economy to fight for more fairness, better wages, and safer conditions for precarious workers.
If you are an Uber driver or do other app-based or gig economy work, learn more about the benefits of joining a union at ufcw1518.com/drivers-united