British Columbia

Surging gas prices force delivery drivers off the road

The skyrocketing price of gas in B.C. is taking its toll on many workers who rely on vehicles for their job.

Workers ask for provincial support in the form of rate increases and tax cuts

A Skip the Dishes travel bag pictured inside a vehicle. Food delivery couriers and taxi drivers say surging gas prices in B.C. are impacting their work drastically. (Maggie MacPherson/CBC)

The skyrocketing price of gas in B.C. is taking its toll on workers who rely on vehicles for their job, particularly food delivery couriers and taxi drivers.

Gas prices, driven by the Russia-Ukraine conflict, are reaching unprecedented levels and costs are being passed on to consumers.

Rohil Chandna, a Skip the Dishes delivery driver in Victoria, says the situation is especially bad for gig workers in B.C., and if the prices stay where they are, he won't be able to continue his work for much longer.

"Until and unless we, the drivers, stop doing Skip the Dishes and refuse orders … Skip wouldn't do anything," he said.

"Skip is pretty stubborn and pretty strict … it needs a huge impact on the network itself to get any raise on the payments [per delivery]."

Chandna said he has had to take a second job in order to make ends meet, and that he knows several people who have done the same or quit driving for delivery services altogether.

He also said that means longer waits for people trying to get food delivered as fewer people are on the job.

Gig platforms like Skip the Dishes operate by classifying their workers as independent contractors instead of employees, which often means they are not entitled to minimum wage or expense benefits.

This means worker's fees — what they take home each day — can vary drastically on a given day, depending on deliveries, and any fuel price hikes will have to be borne by them alone.

Gig workers have said in the past that platforms often change rates arbitrarily, and that a consistent income is often not assured.

Representatives for Skip the Dishes and other food delivery platforms – Uber Eats and InstaCart – did not respond to interview requests in time for publication.

In Ontario, gig workers are set to receive a minimum wage under new legislation — something Chandna says B.C. should also bring into place.

"[In] B.C., we haven't heard anything from the government yet about any support or any changes in the payment system," he said.

Rohil Chandna has been driving with Skip the Dishes for four years, and says skyrocketing gas prices are making him consider quitting his work. (Submitted by Rohil Chandna)

Taxi drivers want increased rates

Mohan Kang, president of the B.C. Taxi Association, says thousands of taxi drivers are hurting due to the unprecedented gas prices.

"The taxi industry is an essential service designated by the government," Kang said. "If our services are curtailed [for] reasons which are not within our hands, of course, it is in the hands of the government."

Kang says the provincial Passenger Transportation Board (PTB), which is responsible for setting meter charges in taxis, should raise their rates to lessen the impact of the gas hikes.

A woman approaches a taxi in Vancouver’s Gastown neighbourhood in this photo from December 2019. Mohan Kang, president of the B.C. Taxi Association, says taxi drivers are having to bear the costs of fuel price hikes themselves without government support. (Maggie MacPherson/CBC)

A spokesperson for the PTB said in a statement that the board was conducting a cost index review, pegged to the Consumer Price Index, that would look to identify rate increases for taxis.

"The 2022 [cost index] review is currently underway and the Board should be in a position to comment further in the coming weeks," the spokesperson said.

Kang says he has also asked the province to consider cutting the carbon tax on fuel, following the Alberta government's proposal to do so on April 1. However, it is a position the B.C. government has consistently rejected.

"The reality is the gas price situation is driven by events outside of provincial control," Public Safety Minister Mike Farnworth said Monday.

"One of the challenges on that taxation side ... there's no guarantee that the price stays down, that the fuel companies don't just jack the price up to take advantage of the margin that you may have created."

With files from Jon Hernandez

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