While most Ontarians are beginning to relax and think of returning to some sort of normalcy, we gig workers are in a fight for our future.
Uber, one of our bosses, tells us that we can have . In fact, if they had their way they’d make that the law of the land. The Ministry of Labour is holding a consultation on the future of work and we look to the Ford government to do the right thing and protect precarious workers in the gig economy.
App-based delivery is now an essential part of our community. Ontario must make sure gig workers get the same rights and protections as all other workers. It is no secret that the current app-based delivery industry is founded on the exploitation and mistreatment of precarious workers — misclassified as independent contractors and excluded from some of our society’s most basic labour rights.
It’s dehumanizing and insulting. We all know that Uber is our boss, but they want to avoid the responsibilities that come with being an employer. (The Ontario Labor Relations Board already sided with couriers against delivery company Foodora. In this case, — with legal rights as employees.)
Bad enough to be treated like that at work, but under the law? Uber recently launched a lobbying campaign in Canada asking provincial governments to amend labour laws. Their plan, Flexible Work+, offers vague benefits and health and safety protections. The catch is, it would would legalize our misclassification as independent contractors.
App-based gig workers are simply not independent. I can’t negotiate pay rates. I cannot subcontract, and don’t control my own working conditions. Sure, I can technically sign in whenever I want, but outside of the lunch and dinner rush I get few orders, and am not paid while I wait for one. On top of this, Uber unilaterally issued a pandemic pay cut. Flexible Work+ is an insult after spending the last year taking care of our communities by delivering food, medicine and essentials. The pandemic isn’t over, and we continue to deliver as essential workers at personal risk.
This demonstrates the need for more protection, rights and collective bargaining — not less. And all workers are affected. If gig workers are relegated to an employment-status netherworld, how long will it be before your boss starts looking for a way to gig-ify your job?
The Ministry of Labour’s will soon propose sweeping labour law reforms. They frame the issue using the same language that Uber uses in its Flexible Work+ proposal. It’s our future that’s at stake, but we are not at the table, nor are trade unions, worker advocacy groups or labour organizations.
The committee will make recommendations on my future — Ontario’s future — in less than a month. Will our voices be heard?
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