With the provincial government announcing that it is developing a permanent paid sick leave program for all BC workers, UFCW 1518 wants to ensure that gig workers are able to reap the benefits of the new program. Due to their classification as “independent contractors,” the union is concerned that the new program, which will come into effect on January 1, 2022, will only apply to workers classified as “employees.”
The BC government is engaging all workers and employers through a survey to find out what kind of paid sick leave they currently have at work, and how it can be improved. While details of the sick leave program are still in development, such as how many days, for which workers, and source of funding, the union is also concerned that the survey results may overrepresent affluent workers who have a work-from-home option and who may be unaffected by missing a few days’ salary, at the expense of lower-income, disadvantaged, and precarious workers.
“Gig workers do not have a work-from-home option; their livelihood depends on their ability to deliver food and supplies to people. Without paid sick leave, these gig workers will have to choose between paying their bills or going to work sick. It is critical that they be included in the paid sick leave program,” stated Kim Novak, UFCW 1518 President.
Currently, gig workers are not entitled to basic employment and labour protections. These workers not only face low and unpredictable pay, but they also confront job insecurity and unsafe working conditions, such as car-jacking and harassment. With the number of people working in gig jobs rising, the provincial government will have to face the mounting pressure of addressing the needs of gig workers.
Throughout the pandemic, gig workers have been instrumental in connecting businesses and communities during the lockdowns. They deliver individuals prepared food, groceries, and other supplies, assisting vital components of our economy such as local restaurants to remain afloat while people remain safe indoors.
UFCW 1518 wants to make sure that the legal classification of gig workers as “independent contractors” will not prevent them from benefiting from the paid sick leave program. Ensuring that gig workers can take paid sick leave will not only help improve their lives, but also supports businesses and communities.