Canadian Manufacturing

CUPW files labour practices complaint against Uber

The Canadian Press

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CUPW claims the agreement was formed without worker input and that Uber used its app and email list to promote the agreement to drivers and couriers.

The Canadian Union of Postal Workers (CUPW) is taking its criticism of Uber Technologies Inc.’s worker practices to the Ontario Labour Relations Board, where it filed a complaint related to an agreement the ride-hailing giant signed with a rival union.

The unfair labour practices complaint on Sep. 15 accuses the company of violating the Labour Relations Act, when it signed an agreement with the United Food and Commercial Workers Canada (UFCW Canada) in January.

The agreement allows the union to provide representation to about 100,000 Canadian drivers and couriers, if requested by the workers facing account deactivations and other disputes with Uber, but does not unionize them. Uber and UFCW jointly cover the costs of representation with no fees charged to workers.

CUPW claims the agreement was formed without worker input and that Uber used its app and email list to promote the agreement to drivers and couriers.


“Our labour laws prohibit an employer from favouring one union over another while workers are organizing,” Jan Simpson, CUPW’s national president, said in a news release.

“We are supposed to have free and fair democratic choice. Uber influencing or foreclosing on that choice is wrong, and in Ontario it’s illegal.”

But Uber spokesperson Keerthana Rang maintained that the company is not in contravention of the Labour Relations Act and does not provide lists of names or contact information for drivers and delivery people to UFCW Canada.

“We came together with UFCW Canada to find common ground and blaze a new trail towards a better future for app-based workers,” she said in an email.

She argued the deal gives drivers and couriers what they want — flexibility, a voice and benefits — and noted that 85 per cent of them supported the deal.

UFCW Canada, which represents at least 250,000 workers at companies including Maple Leaf Foods Inc., Loblaw Companies Ltd. and Molson Coors Beverage Co., did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Uber drivers and couriers are considered to be independent contractors because they can choose when, where and how often they work, but in exchange, they have no job security, vacation pay or other benefits.

When the deal was signed, UFCW Canada and Uber agreed to work to encourage provinces to mandate policies providing gig workers with new benefits and other rights.

A video announcing the agreement showed Paul Meinema, UFCW Canada’s national president, outlining that the two entities would jointly advocate for “industry-wide legislative standards like minimum wage guarantees, a benefits fund, a path to organizing, and other rights for workers in the app-based sector.”

Since then, CUPW has not expressed interest in this part of the agreement, Rang said.

Her company has been pitching provinces on a model called Flexible Work+, which would force app-based companies to create a self-directed benefit fund to disperse to workers for prescriptions, dental and vision care, RRSPs or tuition.

Workers said the model won’t offer all the protections they desire and accused Uber of using the pitch to avoid treating drivers and couriers as employees.


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