British Columbia

B.C. labour board agrees to hear local union's challenge of Uber and Lyft

The B.C. Labour Relations Board has agreed to hear submissions from a local union that wants ride-hail drivers for Uber and Lyft to be considered employees and not independent contractors.

UFCW 1518 says drivers should be protected by labour laws around safety and minimum wage

A passenger tries to hail an Uber in downtown Vancouver. The ride-hailing service is scheduled to be available in B.C. beginning in September. (Maryse Zeidler/CBC)

The Labour Relations Board of B.C. has agreed to hear submissions from a local union that wants ride-hail drivers for Uber and Lyft to be considered employees and not independent contractors.

United Food and Commercial Workers local 1518 is challenging ride-hailing contracts that imply drivers cannot join a union, which is in violation of the B.C. Labour Code.

However, neither Lyft or Uber use employment contracts. Instead, independent contractors agree to the companies' terms of service.

And Lyft has clarified that its terms of service do not prohibit unionization. 

Tuesday morning, representatives from Uber and Lyft attended a meeting with UFCW 1518 at the labour board offices in Vancouver.

"We are pleased to see the labour board has taken this issue seriously and that Uber and Lyft both came to the table today," said local union president Kim Novak.

She says ride-hailing drivers depend on having a good rating on their company's app and that without a good rating their employment is at risk.

"What we want to see happen is that when these ride-hailing companies are coming into B.C...  [that they] have followed employment standards from the beginning," Novak said. "It has raised the level of what standards and expectations are for gig economy workers in our province." 

The union filed its challenge to Uber and Lyft at the Labour Relations Board on Nov. 27.

If the board rules that ride-hailing drivers are considered employees, they would be protected under the province's labour laws around safety and minimum wage.

UFCW Canada has signed up close to 300 Uber drivers in the Toronto area and is currently seeking certification. The private sector union represents 250,000 members across a broad spectrum of Canadian industries. 

Drivers for ride-hailing companies like Uber and Lyft are classified as independent contractors in most jurisdictions where they operate, meaning they do not receive benefits like a minimum wage, paid sick days, vacation days or extended health coverage. 

Monday, Green Coast Ventures Inc. became the first ride-hailing company to be given the go-ahead by the Passenger Transportation Board to operate in Tofino, Ucluelet, Whistler, Pemberton and Squamish in its first year.

Uber and Lyft are still waiting for their applications to be approved.

Now that the board has agreed to hear the matter, both sides will present their submissions in January.

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