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“Our view is our current employment system is outdated, unfair and somewhat inflexible and some workers get benefits and protections and others don’t,” Andrew MacDonald, Uber’s senior vice-president of global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

The Langley School District has issued another COVID-19 notification for Peter Ewart Middle School. (Langley Schools)
Black Press Media files
Ryan’s Regards: Teachers need far more faith and respect in this day and age

Constant news stories about ‘over-dramatized’ suspensions are creating havoc in the education world

A local cycling enthusiast is urging riders, runners and pedestrians to leave the devices off for their own safety. (Heather Colpitts/Langley Advance Times)
LETTER: Langley man says oblivious walkers, runners and cyclists need to tune out

People with ear buds or headphones often unaware of the dangers around them, letter writer says

Previously, Aldergrove Sea Monkeys swimmers trained while passing one another in the same lane at the ACUCC pool. (Aldergrove Star files)
Aldergrove ‘micromonkeys’ ready to hit the pool

Sea Monkey’s swim club has opened registration for age four and up for lessons May 3 to June 2

Bike events like the 2018 Valley Granfondo in Fort Langley drew thousands of cyclists. (Langley Advance Times files)
Our View: Cycling boom will have long-term implications for Canada

All the people who took to two wheels in the last year will change our politics

Vancouver resident Beryl Pye was witness to a “concerning,” spontaneous dance party that spread throughout social groups at Kitsilano Beach on April 16. (Screen grab/Beryl Pye)
VIDEO: Dance party erupts at Vancouver’s Kitsilano Beach to the dismay of onlookers

‘It was a complete disregard for current COVID-19 public health orders,’ says Vancouver resident Beryl Pye

File photo. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graeme Roy
One man dead after shooting in Downtown Vancouver

This is Vancouver’s fifth homicide of the year

A syringe is loaded with COVID-19 vaccine at a vaccination clinic run by Vancouver Coastal Health, in Richmond, B.C., Saturday, April 10, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
B.C. to open up COVID vaccine registration to all B.C. residents 18+ in April

Registration does not equate to being able to book an appointment

(Black Press file photo).
Multiple stabbings at Vancouver Island bush party

Three youths hospitalized after an assault in Comox

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Selina Robinson is shown in Coquitlam, B.C., on Friday November 17, 2017. British Columbia’s finance minister says her professional training as a family therapist helped her develop the New Democrat government’s first budget during the COVID-19 pandemic, which she will table Tuesday. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
B.C. finance minister to table historic pandemic-challenged deficit budget

Budget aims to take care of people during pandemic while preparing for post-COVID-19 recovery, Robinson said

Police tape is shown in Toronto Tuesday, May 2, 2017. Statistics Canada says the country's crime rate ticked up again in 2018, for a fourth year in a row, though it was still lower than it was a decade ago. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graeme Roy
CRIME STOPPERS: ‘Most wanted’ for the week of April 18

Crime Stoppers’ weekly list based on information provided by police investigators

Each spring, the Okanagan Fest-of-Ale is held in Penticton. This year, as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, the festival will not be held. However, beer is still available. How much do you know about this beverage? (pxfuel.com)
QUIZ: How much do you really know about beer?

Put your knowledge to the test with this short quiz

Lord Tweedsmuir’s Tremmel States-Jones jumps a player and the goal line to score a touchdown against the Kelowna Owls in 2019. The face of high school football, along with a majority of other high school sports, could significantly change if a new governance proposal is passed at the B.C. School Sports AGM May 1. (Malin Jordan)
Power struggle: New governance model proposed for B.C. high school sports

Most commissions are against the new model, but B.C. School Sports (BCSS) and its board is in favour

Most Read