Toronto

Foodora launches vote 'no' campaign against union certification

The Canadian Union of Postal Workers has filed an unfair labour practice complaint with the Ontario Labour Relations Board over what it claims are Foodora Canada's spreading of lies and misinformation to scare couriers to vote against certification.

Union certification could create Canada's first unionized workforce of app-based workers

Brice Sopher checks to see the next courier request on Foodora. Sopher says he thinks that Foodora's "no" campaign is understandable but misleading. (Phillipe de Montigny/CBC)

Food delivery service Foodora has launched a campaign to sway its Toronto couriers to vote "no" to union certification. 

The Canadian Union of Postal Workers (CUPW) filed an unfair labour practice complaint to the Ontario Labour Relations Board after Foodora couriers reached out to the CUPW for support in their quest to unionize. CUPW's complaint says that Foodora Canada is spreading lies and misinformation to scare couriers to vote against certification. 

"We jumped on this file and we are really proud to work with them to make the first bargaining unit from the gig economy," said Jean-Philippe Grenier with CUPW.

Foodora's "no" campaign includes a website, Foodora Votes No. The company has also sent emails and push notifications directly to delivery contractors' phones to remind them to vote no. 

"To use apps to deliver their information, I think that's unfair," Grenier said. "They also provide wrong information."

Voting for union certification began August 9 and ends Tuesday.

Brice Sopher, a Foodora Toronto courier of four years, agrees with Grenier. 

"They have access to a lot of riders that we don't know about," Sopher said. "We only know the people who have expressed interest in the effort to unionize."

Sopher said the Foodora "no" campaign misrepresents the union's intentions. "The way that they're characterizing the union is that it's something that goes between the contractors and the employer. That is incorrect," Sopher said.

A screenshot from Foodora Votes No. (foodoravotesno.ca)

For Sopher, unionizing app-based delivery contractors creates a feedback mechanism to effect change in Foodora couriers' working conditions. 

"The situation that is happening now is that Foodora is imposing unilaterally the conditions of work," Sopher said. "If we have a union, collectively, the Foodora contractors would be the ones who would be expressing the conditions they want… We would not present demands that are not desired by the majority."

Sadie Weinstein, Foodora's spokesperson, disagrees that unionization is necessary to effect change at Foodora.

In an emailed statement, Weinstein said, "Foodora has always had an open-door policy for couriers to drop by anytime to discuss their challenges or issues with us."

But Sopher said this open-door policy has not yielded any results. 

Foodora's current working conditions

Sopher said working conditions, including pay scales, have not changed since Foodora started operating in Canada in 2015. 

Sopher also said Foodora's pay does not represent the amount of work couriers actually do to complete an order on their bicycles. Couriers are only paid for the distance they travel between a restaurant and a destination. 

"What that means is for maybe 50 per cent of the time that we're working, that work is not paid," Sopher said.

Notably, Foodora's operation is unique from other food delivery applications like Uber Eats because it stipulates a minimum shift time where a courier must be on-call. However, Foodora does not guarantee that there will be food to deliver at that time. 

"If I don't get any orders, I get zero dollars for that time," Sopher says. "I think I should be compensated for taking the time out of my day where I could be doing other things or other pursuits."

Posters appear around Toronto to raise awareness of Foodora couriers' fight. (Philippe de Montigny/CBC)

Sopher also says that Foodora does not adequately compensate its couriers for the risks that come with the job. He says Foodora's current worker compensation is not enough.

In a statement, Foodora spokesperson Sadie Weinstein told CBC News whenever a courier is injured, dispatchers are trained to immediately ask about severity of an injury so that the company can file a report. Couriers are covered under the Workplace Safety and Insurance Board, which covers workers for lost time due to an injury and full medical coverage, Weinstein said. 

"There are no penalties for being injured on the job. All treatments, like physiotherapy, are covered under [the Workplace Safety and Insurance Board]," she added.

Sopher says he's been injured "a lot of times," but finds that more often, his bike gets damaged and requires repair. "In the winter, I had a snow plow that backed into my bike and it was totalled. There was absolutely no way to get compensation for that," he said.

Other necessary tools to do the job, such as cell phones with a data plan, are also not covered by Foodora.

A potential watershed moment

Union certification could create Canada's first unionized workforce of app-based workers.

Sopher is excited about the precedent a successful "yes" vote might set. 

"The whole gig economy platform, or the structure of this type of work, was created by these companies to make it [difficult] for workers to unionize," Sopher said.

Indeed, the debate over whether food couriers are workers with entitlements like sick days or vacation days, continues. Companies like Uber and Foodora say couriers are independent contractors and not employees.

Sopher also says unionization can also help to better regulate app-based gig work. "It sets into motion a framework for legislation for regulating this type of work, which right now exists in a grey area."

Regardless of the outcome, Foodora says it will honour voting couriers' choices. 

"It's their legal right to advocate for the union and we have no interest in interfering with their rights, no matter their opinion on the issue," Weinstein said in an email.

"We look forward to addressing CUPW's certification application with the Ontario Labour Relations Board."

With files from Philippe de Montigny and The Canadian Press

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