Uber Black Drivers in Ontario File Application to Unionize, Seeking Better Pay, Recognition as Employees

Uber Black drivers in Ontario are filing an application to unionize.

According to a new press release, Uber Black drivers in Toronto have filed an application to unionize at the Ontario labour board, seeking better pay, protection from unjust dismissal, and recognition as employees rather than independent contractors.

The filing comes after months of organizing with the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) union in a push to across the country to mobilize gig economy workers.

“Like all workers, we deserve the right to form a union and bargain collectively,” said Ejaz Butt, a driver who has helped spearhead the union drive. “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 press release highlights the primary reasons Uber Black drivers intend to unionize:

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. 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. A widely unknown and grossly unfair provision in Uber’s employment contracts is a requirement to pay $14,000 and travel to the Netherlands should a driver wish to dispute an unjust termination. UFCW Canada is an intervenor in an ongoing case against Uber at the Supreme Court of Canada centered on this issue.

“We are very happy and waiting for the day of voting because limousine drivers suffer too much,” said Butt. “I am one-hundred-and-one percent sure we will win the vote.”

Uber, on the other hand, classifies its drivers as independent contractors, a category that provides protection to its workers under provincial employment legislation and can’t unionize.

“Our platform enables drivers to earn money on their own terms; they control where and when they work, and are free to use other apps at the same time as they’re on Uber,” said an Uber spokesperson in an emailed statement to the Star.

“That’s why the vast majority of drivers say that flexibility is their number one reason for driving with Uber. We are constantly working to get feedback from drivers and improve their experience while maintaining the main thing they love about it, having flexible work.”