'They're trying to circumvent both the Supreme Court of Canada's decision as well as our class-action laws of this province'
Uber is asking drivers in Toronto to sign a contract stating they cannot take part in a $400-million lawsuit that seeks to recognize them as employees rather than independent contractors, according to the law firm representing the drivers.
“What the Uber drivers have been getting the past number of days is a message on their Uber app saying, ‘Unless you accept this contract, you’re locked out of the app.’ So unless you click accept, you cannot continue working for Uber,” says Lior Samfiru, partner at Samfiru-Tumarkin.
“This contract is an amendment to the arbitration obligation that they have previously and one of the things it does is it says that, ‘If you accept this, and by the way you don’t have a choice, you cannot participate in any class action. But we’re going to be nice -- if within 30 days you don’t like this, you can opt out of the arbitration as long as you send us this email.’”
This is in response to a June loss in a Supreme Court case, he says, covered in the latest issue of Canadian HR Reporter.
The service agreements for Uber drivers specify that the parties are not in an employment relationship and they are governed by the laws of the Netherlands.
“Uber is effectively trying to bluff their workers, offering them a contract with a clause preventing class-action suits, even [though] that clause would likely be ruled illegal in a [Canadian] court. Uber's [management is] clearly hoping that drivers are bamboozled by the contract and won't chance it,” tweeted Marshall Auerback, a fellow of Economists for Peace and Security at the Levy Economics Institute at Bard College in New York.
“Not content with just exploiting their workers, they are doing their utmost to prevent them from adopting legal remedies.”
Class action continues
The contract is an eight-page document and drivers may not thoroughly read it and may think that they can continue working for Uber without knowing they are losing their right to participate in a class action, says Samfiru.
“I’m trying to get the word out to Uber drivers that once you sign – I understand that people will accept because they have to continue working – you need to opt out.”
Samfiru also says he’s going to talk to the judges in the class action to see if what Uber is doing is legal.
“They’re trying to circumvent both the Supreme Court of Canada’s decision as well as our class-action laws of this province,” he says, adding that his firm will continue with the class action.
In November last year, the presidents of both the Ontario Federation of Labour (OFL) and the Canadian Union of Postal Workers (CUPW) threw their support behind Uber drivers and Foodora drivers who were fighting for the right to unionize to improve their working conditions.
And in January, the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) Union Canada applied to the Ontario Labour Relations Board to unionize more than 300 Uber Black limousine and SUV drivers in Toronto.