Day 6

Canadian bike couriers are part of a global push for better working conditions in the gig economy

Toronto bike courier Tess Siksay is part of a drive to get Foodora couriers to join the Canadian Union of Postal Workers (CUPW). She hopes it will improve working conditions, secure higher wages and be part of what it takes to fix the gig economy.

Foodora delivery riders have launched a campaign to unionize to boost job protection

Tess Siksay has been a Foodora bike courier for over four years. She's part of a team organizing a union for the app-based food delivery service's independent contractors. (Jason Vermes/CBC)
Listen8:26

If Tess Siksay's efforts to form a union for Foodora's delivery couriers fails, she says she'll completely lose her faith in the gig economy.

With more riders trying to carve out a share of the food delivery market's perks for themselves, Siksay claims that Foodora is overbooking couriers.

According to Foodora, couriers made an average of $21 per hour across the country. But it's difficult to reach that wage because shifts are overbooked, the 25-year-old said, noting she sometimes doesn't even earn minimum wage. 

"I think the gig economy has been put in place in a way so that companies can avoid responsibilities," she told Day 6 host Brent Bambury.

"It could potentially just keep going downhill from here, and I think we need to set a precedent at some point so that it doesn't get any worse."

A union, Siksay adds, would combat that attitude.

'Very insecure job'

Gig economy workers have organized around the world in recent weeks to protest unfair working conditions. 

Siksay along with other Foodora couriers launched a campaign this month to join the Canadian Union of Postal Workers (CUPW).

These independent contractors are calling for fair compensation for dangerous work, the ability to recover when sick or injured, and a respectful workplace free from harassment and intimidation.

"Our pay structure can be changed on a whim overnight. We have no say in how any of the things in our contract can be changed," said Siksay.

"It's a very insecure job, and by joining a union, we'd be able to have that voice."

CUPW backs couriers 

Gig economy companies, like Foodora, "avoid paying for even the most basic employment benefits" such as employment insurance, and therefore "all of the risk falls on the couriers," CUPW, which represents 50,000 postal workers across the country, said in a statement Tuesday.

Unlike employees, riders and drivers — who are classified as independent contractors — aren't entitled to benefits, like sick days, holiday pay and a pension.

"Like postal workers, Foodora couriers perform dangerous work, navigating busy streets in all weather conditions. Their injury rates are high, too," the statement read. 

Foodora courier and union organizer Ivan Ostos told CBC Radio's Metro Morning earlier this month that while on delivery last fall, he collided with another bicyclist and fractured his elbow.

A Foodora bike courier poses in front of Delivery Hero, Foodora's parent company, headquarters in Berlin, Germany. (Fabrizio Bensch/Reuters )

"I got right back up … and I was just thinking: 'Yeah, I'm fine, but I've gotta finish this order,'" he recalled.

He added that his wages fluctuate as he's paid per order through a combination of base pay, distance travelled and tips.

In Ontario, the company pays worker compensation premiums so couriers can apply if they are injured on the job, Foodora told Day 6 in an email statement, adding that they have an "open-door policy" for riders at their Toronto office.  

Despite the challenges of working in the gig economy, Siksay says she sticks with it not only because she wants to see it change, but because she enjoys the work.

"I don't think I feel quite as clear-minded anywhere else other than when I'm riding," she said.


To hear the full interview with Tess Siksay, download our podcast or click 'Listen' at the top of this page.  

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