An Uber Eats courier is pictured as they pick up an order for delivery from a restaurant in Toronto on February 27, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette

An Uber Eats courier is pictured as they pick up an order for delivery from a restaurant in Toronto on February 27, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette

Uber Canada seeks labour model allowing it to provide benefits to drivers, couriers

Uber is calling their pitch Flexible Work+ and marketing it as a step up from independent contractor model

Uber Technologies Inc. is asking provincial governments across Canada for regulatory changes that would force the tech giant and other app-based companies to offer gig workers benefits and safety protections.

The San Francisco-based company said Wednesday that it wants the provinces to require app-based gig employers to accrue benefit funds for workers and provide safety tools and training without having to take away the flexibility of their work by declaring them traditional employees.

Uber’s proposal is a significant shift from its longtime independent contractor model, where drivers and couriers pick up riders or orders as they please but are not offered health insurance, vacation time or many other perks associated with traditional employment.

“Our view is our current employment system is outdated, unfair and somewhat inflexible and some workers get benefits and protections and others don’t,” Andrew MacDonald, Uber’s senior vice-president of global rides and platform told The Canadian Press.

“We feel that COVID has exposed some of those fundamental flaws and think this is a good opportunity for change.”

MacDonald and Uber are calling their pitch Flexible Work+ and marketing it as a step up from the independent contractor model that gives drivers and couriers perks but doesn’t take away their power to chose when, where and how often they pick up riders or meals.

The company hopes to use the model to address frequent complaints from drivers and couriers who want the benefits provided by traditional employers and more transparency around their earnings.

Both requests have become even more important during the COVID-19 pandemic as gig workers saw their earnings fluctuate.

UberEats couriers in Toronto, for example, told The Canadian Press in February they were concerned about the company’s treatment of workers after pay changes resulted in some of their earnings dropping from $10 to $3.99 per trip before tips during the last year.

If provincial governments back Uber’s proposal, the company would offer drivers and couriers in the country access to funds that they can spend on prescriptions, dental, or vision care and potentially even RRSPs or tuition.

Uber envisions drivers and couriers getting to decide how to use the money, which could be allocated based on hours worked.

Uber is also hoping provincial changes would allow the company to give drivers and couriers equipment like safety vests or phone mounts without creating the perception that it is a traditional employer.

It would also commit to offer more transparency around pay, find more ways to engage with drivers and delivery people and invest more in those finding work through the app — all features it does not require government assistance for.

Uber is pursuing the Flexible Work+ model rather than existing ones because an October survey of 670 Canadian drivers and couriers showed 85 per cent could not continue driving or delivering if flexible work wasn’t offered.

When it asked about specific models, it found 29 per cent strongly preferred and 30 per cent somewhat preferred to be an independent contractor.

About 15 per cent strongly preferred and 20 per cent somewhat preferred the traditional employee model.

“We really think there is a way to have the best of both worlds here,” said MacDonald.

READ MORE: ‘I’m making so little’: Uber Eats couriers say new pay system dropped wages

Using feedback, the company started devising Flexible Work+ and asked drivers and couriers about it. Sixty-five per cent of the them favoured it. Roughly 16 per cent still like the current independent contractor model and 18 per cent wanted to be classified as employees with benefits.

Now it wants provincial co-operation to make the proposal a reality — and not just for Uber.

“Uber has led but we’re by no means the only player in the space and many of our drivers and delivery people work on multiple platforms, so we really think it’s a good thing for the industry to come along,” said MacDonald.

He isn’t sure how other apps feel about the changes Uber is pushing, but said there is “wiggle room” to alter the proposal based on feedback and he can see other companies finding benefits in the model.

“We’ve got a proposal that will work, but now we just need to engage.”

Tara Deschamps, The Canadian Press


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Want to support local journalism during the pandemic? Make a donation here.

Coronavirusride hailingUber

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Nanaimo city council voted unanimously Monday to pass a bylaw establishing the foundation for a new downtown business improvement association. (Chris Bush/News Bulletin)
City of Nanaimo adopts bylaw to create new downtown business improvement association

Chamber of commerce says next steps will be a board of directors and five-year strategic plan

Nanaimo-Ladysmith school district teachers’ union, and its counterparts from Mount Arrowsmith district, seek stricter COVID-19 rules. (News Bulletin file)
Nanaimo-Ladysmith teachers’ union asks health authority for stricter COVID-19 measures

Teachers ask for vaccine, more online learning, mask mandate for primary students

B.C. Finance Minister Selina Robinson outlines the province’s three-year budget in Victoria, April 20, 2021. (B.C. government video)
B.C. deficit to grow by $19 billion for COVID-19 recovery spending

Pandemic-year deficit $5 billion lower than forecast

Chakalaka Bar & Grill remains open in defiance of orders from Island Health to close. (Cole Schisler photo)
Island Health seeks injunction against restaurant defying COVID-19 orders

VIHA says Chakalaka Bar and Grill also violating water and sewer regulations with RV hook-ups

Nanaimo Fire Rescue investigator Mark Jonah probes the scene of a blaze that destroyed two apartments on Sunday, April 18. The cause of the blaze has not been determined. (Chris Bush/News Bulletin)
UPDATE: RCMP say Wakesiah Avenue fire was arson, suspect has been arrested

35-year-old man arrested for allegedly starting fire lived in the complex

A man pauses at a coffin after carrying it during a memorial march to remember victims of overdose deaths in Vancouver. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
B.C. announces historic half-billion-dollar funding for overdose crisis, mental health

Of it, $152 million will be used to address the opioid crisis and see the creation of 195 new substance use treatment beds

Children’s backpacks and shoes are seen at a CEFA (Core Education and Fine Arts) Early Learning daycare franchise, in Langley, B.C., on Tuesday May 29, 2018. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
B.C. budget to expand $10-a-day child care, but misses the mark on ‘truly universal’ system

$111 million will be used to fund 3,750 new $10-a-day spaces though 75 additional ChildCareBC universal prototype sites over the next three years.

The City of Nanaimo will further investigate an initiative to set up two 12-cabin sites to create transitional emergency housing for people experiencing homelessness. (Black Press file photo)
City of Nanaimo will ask for expressions of interest to operate tiny cabin sites

Staff expresses concern about workload, councillor says sheltering people must take priority

Ambulance paramedic in full protective gear works outside Lion’s Gate Hospital, March 23, 2020. Hospitals are seeing record numbers of COVID-19 patients more than a year into the pandemic. (The Canadian Press)
B.C.’s COVID-19 infection rate declines, 849 cases Tuesday

Up to 456 people now in hospital, 148 in intensive care

Christy Clark, who was premier from 2011 to 2017, is the first of several present and past politicians to appear this month before the Cullen Commission, which is investigating the causes and impact of B.C.’s money-laundering problem over the past decade. (Darryl Dyck/Canadian Press)
Christy Clark says she first learned of money-laundering spike in 2015

The former B.C. premier testified Tuesday she was concerned the problem was ‘apparently at an all-time high’

Police executed a search warrant at the Devils Army Clubhouse on Petersen road in Campbell River on August 10, 2017.
Murder trial into 2016 Campbell River killing underway in Victoria

Ricky Alexander is charged with the first-degree murder of John Dillon Brown

Most Read