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“Our view is our current employment system is outdated, unfair and somewhat inflexible and some workers get benefits and protections and others don’t,” Andrew MacDonald, Uber’s senior vice-president of global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

Asymptomatic testing will now be available for "priority groups" who are most likely to spread the COVID-19 virus to vulnerable or at-risk populations. File photo by THE CANADIAN PRESS
Alberta identifies 1,516 new COVID-19 cases on Sunday

Central zone has 1,849 active cases

A damaged unicorn statue is shown in a field outside of Delia, Alta. in this undated handout photo. It’s not often police can report that a unicorn has been found, but it was the truth Saturday when RCMP said a stolen, stainless-steel statue of the mythical beast had been located in a field not far from where he’d been taken. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO, RCMP *MANDATORY CREDIT*
Mounties get their unicorn; stolen statue of mythical beast found in Alberta field

Police are still looking for suspects, and have called in their forensics experts to help

There were six additional deaths across Alberta reported over the past 24 hours, bringing the death toll to 1,926 since the beginning of the pandemic. (File photo)
Dr. Wayne John Edwards, 66, died Tuesday at Chinook Regional Hospital. (Cornerstone Funeral Home)
Lethbridge doctor becomes 7th Alberta health-care worker to die from COVID-19

Dr. Wayne John Edwards, who was 66, died Tuesday at the Chinook Regional Hospital in the southern Alberta city

Conservative leader Erin O’Toole holds a press conference on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Tuesday, April 6, 2020. Top Tory leaders of past and present will speak with supporters today about what a conservative economic recovery from COVID-19 could look like. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
O’Toole to vote against Conservative MP’s private bill on ‘sex-selective abortion’

Erin O’Toole said he supports a woman’s right to choose and will personally vote against the private member’s bill

Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance Chrystia Freeland responds to a question during Question Period in the House of Commons Tuesday December 8, 2020 in Ottawa. The stage is set for arguably the most important federal budget in recent memory, as the Liberal government prepares to unveil its plan for Canada’s post-pandemic recovery even as a third wave of COVID-19 rages across the country. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Election reticence expected to temper political battle over federal budget

Opposition parties have laid out their own demands in the weeks leading up to the budget

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

Pall Bearers carrying the coffin of the Duke of Edinburgh, followed by the Prince of Wales, left and Princess Anne, right, into St George’s Chapel for his funeral, at Windsor Castle, in Windsor, England, Saturday April 17, 2021. (Danny Lawson/Pool via AP)
Trudeau announces $200K donation to Duke of Edinburgh award as Prince Philip laid to rest

A tribute to the late prince’s ‘remarkable life and his selfless service,’ the Prime Minister said Saturday

A vial of some of the first 500,000 AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine doses that Canada secured. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Carlos Osorio
Canada’s 2nd blood clot confirmed in Alberta after AstraZeneca vaccine

The male patient, who is in his 60s, is said to be recovering

The funeral of Britain’s Prince Philip in Windsor, England, on Saturday, April 17, 2021. Philip died April 9 at the age of 99. (Kirsty Wigglesworth/AP)
PHOTOS: Prince Philip laid to rest Saturday as sombre queen sits alone

The entire royal procession and funeral took place out of public view within the grounds of Windsor Castle

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau looks on as Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland responds to a question during a news conference on Parliament Hill in Ottawa, Tuesday, Aug. 18, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Expectations high as Trudeau Liberals get ready to unveil first pandemic budget

The Liberals will look to thread an economic needle with Monday’s budget

Doses of the Moderna COVID‑19 vaccine in a freezer trailer, to be transported to Canada during the COVID-19 pandemic. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
Pfizer to increase vaccine deliveries in Canada as Moderna supply slashed

Moderna plans to ship 650,000 doses of its vaccine to Canada by the end of the month, instead of the expected 1.2 million

Most Read