BC union asks regulator to ensure rideshare drivers receive "employee" benefits

Nov 28 2019, 7:28 pm

Stopping short of directly asking for the unionization of the local operations of services like Lyft and Uber, BC union UFCW 1518 has requested the Labour Relations Board of BC to establish that ridehailing drivers are employees protected by law and provided with benefits.

In a release, UFCW 1518 president Kim Novak says the union’s campaign is supported by the BC Federation of Labour, which wrote to the provincial Passenger Transportation Board (PTB) and requested that as a condition of approval, each ridehailing company must acknowledge that drivers are employees as defined and protected by law.

Novak alleges Lyft and Uber are asking drivers in BC to sign contracts that prohibit them from engaging in collective actions.

“This is completely unacceptable. If Lyft and Uber want to operate in our province, they must comply with our employment laws,” said Novak. “We have reviewed the terms of Lyft and Uber’s agreements and in our assessment they are in violation of BC labour laws.”

The union claims the contracts proposed by Lyft and Uber for their drivers in BC are “virtually identical” to the contracts they offer to their drivers elsewhere the world.

“Many jurisdictions have scrambled to protect workers after the fact,” she said. “We want to make sure that workers are protected before ridehailing services launch this year.”

The complaint to the provincial labour regulator seeks to clarify whether ridehailing drivers are considered “independent contractors” or “employees” of the company. According to the union, in other jurisdictions, governments have mandated that drivers are entitled to minimum wage, vacation pay, and sick leave benefits, but both ridehailing giants “have either refused to comply or have left the jurisdiction entirely.”

Another branch of the union has been organizing the unionization of Uber in Toronto, where hundreds of drivers have recently joined the union. They are now seeking certification.

UFCW 1518 says it is aware of at least 17 other companies that have applied to the PTB to operate ridehailing in BC.

At this time, Lyft and Uber have not responded to the union’s demands and assertions.

This campaign comes ahead of the expected end-of-year launch of BC’s first ridehailing services, ahead of the busy holiday season, as promised by the provincial government.

In an update last week, Uber said it has the “intention to begin operation in the next few weeks” and has begun distributing decals to drivers who have completed their sign-up process.