Jan 27 (Reuters) - Uber Technologies Inc on
Thursday said it had reached an agreement with Canada's largest
services-sector union to offer employee-like benefits to
contractors who work as ride-hail and food delivery drivers.
Uber and United Food and Commercial Workers Canada (UFCW)
they will jointly lobby Canada's provincial governments to pass
labor reforms that would provide gig workers with minimum
earnings of at least 120% of local minimum wage, a benefits fund
that includes pension and sick pay and other workers' rights.
Today, those benefits are generally reserved for employees,
leaving gig workers, who are largely independent contractors,
without benefits and protections.
Under the five-year agreement, Canada's 100,000 Uber drivers
and delivery workers would also have a right to legal
representation by the union in case of disputes with the
company, such as when getting kicked off Uber's platform.
The union will also meet with Uber twice a year to address
workers' health and safety concerns, said Barry Sawyer, the
executive assistant to the UFCW national president.
Sawyer said the union purposefully avoided addressing the
thorny issue of gig workers' legal status in its agreement with
Uber and labor unions around the world have for years
sparred over the question of whether gig workers should be
reclassified employees, a designation that would force Uber to
provide substantial and costly benefits.
"We're not focused on what you call the workers; the
government can make that decision. We just want them to get the
rights and benefits they deserve," Sawyer said.
Gig companies have long been criticized for the lack of
benefits and protections they offer drivers. Many labor unions,
some lawmakers and the Biden administration have said gig
workers should be reclassified as employees.
In surveys with UFCW, drivers said they wanted to maintain
the flexibility to work on their own schedule, Sawyer said.
Uber, Lyft Inc, DoorDash Inc and other
companies have argued that flexibility would be eliminated if
they were forced to reclassify workers employees.
In recent years, Uber has pushed lawmakers across the United
States, Canada and the European Union to implement what it
refers to as the "third way" - a compromise that would maintain
workers' contractor status, but provide them with some benefits.
Uber struck a similar deal last year https://www.reuters.com/business/sustainable-business/ubers-uk-drivers-gain-collective-bargaining-with-union-recognition-2021-05-26/#:~:text=LONDON%2C%20May%2026%20(Reuters),on%20behalf%20of%20the%20workforce
with Britain's GMB union, allowing it to represent up to 70,000
drivers and boosting the power of workers with collective
California voters in 2020 approved such a compromise model
in a decisive win for the companies, dividing the U.S. labor https://www.reuters.com/business/gig-companies-push-state-level-worker-laws-faces-divided-labor-movement-2021-06-09
movement in its strategy towards gig workers.
(Reporting by Tina Bellon in Austin, Texas
Editing by Paul Simao and Cynthia Osterman)