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Uber drivers to get union representation in Canada

The agreement comes a few months after Richmond Uber drivers filed a labour relations complaint
Uber Canada and union UFCW have signed an agreement that will provide representation to the app's drivers and couriers | File photo: Prathan Chorruangsak, Getty Images

A few months after Uber drivers in Richmond filed a labour relations complaint, their head office in Canada has reached an agreement with a union which will provide representation to the app’s drivers and couriers.

The union, United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) Canada, says the agreement is “a huge step forward in gig worker rights,” and will advance worker safety, pay transparency and access to benefits.

Under the agreement, UFCW can provide representation for more than 100,000 Uber drivers and couriers across the country, if they request the help, during deactivation, account disputes or other day-to-day on the job issues with Uber.

The representation services will be made available at no cost to drivers and couriers.

“For too long, gig work has been a race to the bottom for these workers, who have endured lower wages, unsafe working conditions, and arbitrary firings,” said UFCW president Kim Novak, in a statement.

“Today’s agreement means that we can set a new, higher standard for worker rights in the app-based work world.”

The agreement comes after UFCW 1518 filed a complaint to the Labour Relations Board in October 2021 on behalf of several Uber drivers, including three based primarily out of Richmond at YVR.

The drivers, according to union UFCW 1518, had thousands of five-star reviews on their accounts but were unjustly fired by Uber after a small number of spurious complaints by passengers, some of whom refused to follow the app’s own COVID-19 safety rules.

In the complaint, the union claimed the drivers were fired after refusing unsafe work, including having to deal with customers refusing to wear a mask and then having to call the police when the passengers became violent.

In another incident, a driver refused to take four passengers in his vehicle as this violated Uber’s explicit COVID-19 safety regulations.

The driver believes the customer who ordered the trip retaliated against him by leaving a bad review and rating.

According to the complaint filed with the LRB, Uber failed to investigate any of the allegations made by customers and ultimately “deactivated” the drivers’ accounts without contacting them to ask their side.

“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," one of the Richmond drivers, Bhupinder Singh, told the Richmond News at the time.

"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.”

Hundreds of Uber drivers came forward to UFCW 1518 after the complaint was filed.

Six drivers now have a formal date on Feb. 24 to have their cases heard, according to UFCW.

Under the newly signed agreement, Uber drivers and couriers will also have access to joint health and safety meetings, with a committee consisting of Uber drivers, UFCW Canada and Uber representatives, as well as quarterly meetings with senior Uber management to discuss and resolve concerns.

Richmond News