Much is at stake for workers in Ontario’s review of the Employment Standards Act. The Ontario Workforce Recovery Advisory Committee (OWRAC) was tasked with making recommendations that could reshape our labour laws, but was formed without worker representation. Their review began soon after Uber presented the Ford government with the “Flexible Work+” plan, which seeks to strip app-based workers of employee status. If the Ontario government goes along with Uber’s plan, gig workers would fall under a new category of worker with lesser rights, and it would open the door to weakened worker protections in other sectors where misclassification runs rampant.
Workers successfully pushed for a meeting with OWRAC on July 28 and got to share the realities of app-based work just before the consultations ended. No matter what platform we work through – Uber, Lyft, Skip the Dishes, and more – app-based workers are employees who need the same protections as other workers who are misclassified as self-employed, paid extremely low wages, and expected to do unsafe work. The workers’ experiences supported the joint submission to OWRAC by the Workers’ Action Centre and Parkdale Community Legal Services.
Min, who is a Workers’ Action Centre member, shared with the Committee his experience working solely for Uber since 2016. In the first six months, his pay was reasonable at $18 an hour but then began to decline. “By the time the pandemic started, I was making about $9 to $11 per hour,” he said. After deducting the costs of gas and car maintenance, Min made only $100 per day though he worked over 12 hours a day. It isn’t right that essential workers like Min should pay out of pocket and then make less than minimum wage. Like all app-based workers, Min had no power to negotiate his pay and no control over the conditions of his work – he either agreed to what Uber offered or he lost the chance to work. Uber even suspended Min once, requiring him to pay the company and take training before he could work again.
Min’s experience with Uber is common and shows that he and other app-based workers are employees, not independent contractors. It also clearly shows how app-based workers’ rights are routinely violated. Please sign on to the Gig Workers’ Bill of Rights today to ensure that the Ontario and federal governments know that app-based workers are employees deserving basic protections and access to income supports. Gig workers demand full employment rights like minimum wage and sick leave, payment for all hours worked, and the right to form a union, just to name a few.
It’s crucial that you add your voice and ask your friends and family to do the same! While the focus right now is on app-based work, any stripping away of employee status will likely be embraced by employers in other sectors that are also notorious for misclassification, such as trucking and cleaning. If you haven’t already, sign up with the Justice for Workers campaign to join the fight against misclassification.