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Union wants ride hailing drivers in B.C. to get minimum wage, benefits

Last Updated Dec 1, 2019 at 5:26 pm PST

FILE - In this Tuesday, Jan. 12, 2016, file photo, a driver displaying Lyft and Uber stickers on his front windshield drops off a customer in downtown Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Richard Vogel, File)

A major union is challenging B.C. to give ride hailing drivers the same protections as other employees

If drivers are classified as employees they are entitled to earn the provincial minimum wage and mandatory benefits

If the challenge is successful, it will likely raise the price per ride when ride hailing comes to B.C.

VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) — It’s a challenge which could have major implications for how ride hailing rolls out in B.C.

The United Food and Commercial Workers union has filed a challenge with the Labour Relations Board, asking for it to give Uber and Lyft drivers the same protections as other workers.

Labour expert Fiona McQuarrie, a professor with the University of the Fraser Valley, notes this has been a debate in other jurisdictions.

“One of the criteria for determining if someone is an employee or an independent contractor is how much of the work do they do that is given by the employer and carried out under the employer’s direction,” she explains. “The argument could be made for ride hailing that the driver’s receive their assignments through the company and the company has certain standards regarding speed up pick up, cleanliness and suitability of the cars and delivery time that drivers are expected to adhere to.”

If drivers are classified as employees they are entitled to earn the provincial minimum wage as well as vacation days or payment in lieu, according to McQuarrie who adds safety standards can also be upheld if the companies are accountable for their drivers.

Recently, Uber was ordered to pay 650 million dollars worth of unemployment taxes by the state of New Jersey, over this issue.

RELATED: Horgan confident ride-hailing ‘just around the corner’ in B.C.

McQuarrie says in other jurisdictions, ride hailing companies have challenged the notion that drivers are employees arguing they are simply users of the app or independent contractors because they do not sign employment contracts.

If drivers were guaranteed minimum wage, the price per ride would likely go up.

“If you average it out across the number of rides a driver tends to make in a shift, for lack of a better word, it usually works out to less than minimum wage. And that’s the cost advantage that Uber and Lyft and ridesharing companies are operating on,” says McQuarrie.

This challenge could create another bump in the road for the government plan to bring in ride hailing in time for Christmas.

“It depends on whether the Labour Board wants to resolve this before the companies start operating or if the companies are going to start operating and deal with this challenge later.”