In a landmark decision, the Supreme Court ruled today that Uber drivers can raise legal issues with their employers in Canadian courts. This ruling paves the way for Uber drivers and other gig economy workers to become recognized as employees and given the rights and protections of the Employment Standards Act.
In the lead-up to today’s decision, Uber and other ride-sharing apps argued that their workers were independent contractors rather than employees. This distinction meant that Uber workers needed to raise their labour issues through a mediation process in the Netherlands. This foreign process was incredibly cumbersome and costly at $14,500 USD, making it virtually impossible for workers to seek resolution of their issues.
The ruling echoed what UFCW 1518 and other unions have been arguing for years: that Uber and other app-based companies set all of the terms of work for their contractors and should be considered employers. “There was clearly inequality of bargaining power between Uber and Mr. Heller [the worker],” the Supreme Court’s ruling said. “The arbitration agreement was part of a standard form contract. Mr. Heller [the worker] was powerless to negotiate any of its terms.”
The ruling also enables a $400 million class-action lawsuit on behalf of Uber drivers to proceed. If successful, the class-action lawsuit will award a minimum wage, vacation pay, and other protections that workers enjoy under the Ontario Employment Standards Act to anyone who has worked for Uber in Ontario since 2012.
“We’ve been fighting for Uber drivers to receive the full protection of the Employment Standards Act from the beginning,” said UFCW 1518 President Kim Novak. “This ruling proves what the union has been saying all along – that gig economy workers are employees, and companies like Uber can’t just ignore their responsibilities to workers under the guise of technological innovation. It’s a step in the right direction but there is more to do and we will continue to fight for fairness for gig and contract workers.”
UFCW 1518 is also encouraging the Passenger Transportation Board (PTB) to revisit a decision made earlier this year and allow for the creation of made-in-BC ride-hailing services that offer a living wage to their drivers.
As the gig economy expands, UFCW 1518 is committed to advocating for app and other gig and contract workers to receive full protection and rights under the Employment Standards Act. To support our campaign for fairness for Uber drivers, go to www.ufcw1518.com/fairness-uber. To learn more about supports available to delivery workers and other gig and contract workers, go to www.ufcw1518.com/gig-and-contract-workers