'Like all workers, we deserve the right to form a union and bargain collectively'
The United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) Union Canada has applied to the Ontario Labour Relations Board to unionize more than 300 Uber Black limousine and SUV drivers in Toronto. With the application, the drivers could become the first ride-sharing workers in Canada to gain union representation.
The drivers are hoping to be paid for all hours worked and have a guaranteed hourly wage. They also want to secure just cause protection and a legally binding grievance procedure, and to compel Uber to abide by Ontario’s Employment Standards Act and recognize drivers as employees rather than independent contractors.
“Like all workers, we deserve the right to form a union and bargain collectively,” says Ejaz Butt, a leading organizer among the Uber Black drivers. “We have already tried every possible avenue to meet with Uber to discuss our demands, but the company has ignored us. Unionization is the only way to protect our jobs and our livelihoods.”
The union anticipates that the labour board will schedule a certification vote on Jan. 17, adding that they will “fight at all levels” to ensure drivers are properly recognized as employees and that the company negotiates in good faith with their employees’ union.
“Like many gig economy workers, Uber Black drivers spend countless unpaid hours every day waiting for customers, monitoring the app, and queuing at hubs at the airport and downtown Toronto,” says UFCW. “To make matters worse, Uber uses the customer rating system to unjustly terminate drivers and there is no effective complaints mechanism to hold the company accountable.”
Uber’s employment contract requires workers to pay $14,000 and to travel to the Netherlands should a driver wish to dispute an unjust termination. Currently, the union is an intervenor in an ongoing case against Uber at the Supreme Court of Canada centred on the issue, says UFCW.
The more than 300 drivers work in and out of Pearson International Airport and downtown Toronto. In November, Uber announced plans to bring its logistics app Uber Freight to Canada.