Toronto, ON – The Ontario Federation of Labour calls on the Ford Government to reject Uber’s proposal to rewrite Ontario’s employment laws to trap its drivers in sub-minimum wage work.
Last week, Uber made public its campaign to lobby to exempt its drivers and other gig workers from the Employment Standards Act, 2000 (“ESA”) and similar legislation across Canada. In exchange, Uber proposes rules requiring it and other gig companies to provide “self-directed benefits” to their drivers based on hours worked and certain unspecified additional safety training and tools. These changes would deny gig workers core protections afforded to employees in Ontario like the minimum wage and overtime pay, as well as the reimbursement of expenses to ensure that their wages meet these minimum standards. Uber’s proposal is part of its campaign to export new rules around the world modelled after Proposition 22, the California ballot initiative on which Uber and other gig employers spent upwards of $224 million USD to take away employment status from gig workers in California.
“This U.S.-style campaign to take away workers’ rights must be rejected,” said Patty Coates, Ontario Federation of Labour President. “Gig workers deserve the same rights and protections as all other employees in Ontario.”
Uber has suggested that it needs its requested exemptions in order to provide the benefits it proposes, but this insinuation is not correct.
“If Uber wanted to provide its drivers with benefits or enhanced training it could do so right now,” explained Coates. “Instead, Uber is using the promise of these modest benefits as a political trade-off for critical workplace rights and carving its drivers out of basic employment protections forever. It’s a false choice that must be rejected.”
Uber’s proposal arises in the context of an ongoing application for certification at the Ontario Labour Relations Board for its Uber Black limousine and SUV drivers working in and out of Toronto Pearson International Airport and downtown Toronto, and after the Supreme Court of Canada ruled last June that Uber’s mandatory arbitration clause should be struck down and could not be used to prevent the plaintiff in a proposed $400 million employment class action from pursuing his case on behalf of its drivers across the Province of Ontario.
“Uber drivers and other gig workers in Ontario are fighting for their right to unionize and to receive the same protections under the law as other employees,” said Coates. “The OFL rejects Uber’s attempts to undermine these struggles with backroom deals to carve gig workers out of core protections.”
The OFL is also calling on the Government of Ontario to take action to proactively enforce gig workers’ rights under the ESA, and to clarify their status as employees.
“Gig workers need the government to protect their rights as employees, not legislate them away,” said Coates. “The Ontario Government should enforce the laws already on the books to protect gig workers, and should follow the lead of courts and governments around the world and confirm that gig workers are employees and entitled to basic employment protections.”
The Ontario Federation of Labour represents 54 unions and one million workers in Ontario. For information, visit www.OFL.ca and follow @OFLabour on Facebook and Twitter.
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