New rules offer better wages, protections for B.C. app-based workers

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Those working for ride-hailing services such as Uber and Lyft and food-delivery apps such as Skip the Dishes and DoorDash will see better wages and protections under proposed new rules

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Inder Raj Gill, a ride-hail driver in Metro Vancouver, says he has a colleague who works such long hours that he usually arrives home long after his young child has fallen asleep.

It’s so much a part of the daily routine that the driver fears his child doesn’t even recognize him.

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That’s among the reasons Gill heartily supports B.C.’s plan to bring in regulations ensuring better wages, working conditions and protections for ride-hail and food-delivery workers.

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Minister of Labour Harry Bains said B.C. is among the first jurisdictions in Canada to propose such protections for app-based workers.

Among the draft regulations being brought forward in the coming days is a commitment to gig workers being paid 120 per cent of the minimum wage while on a driving or delivery assignment — just over $20 an hour based on the current minimum in B.C.

It will also limit the ability of app companies to reduce workers’ pay because of tips or to garnish a portion of those gratuities.

And ride-hail and food-delivery drivers will receive the same protections afforded to all B.C. employees should they be unable to work after being hurt on the job. The app platforms, both local services and multinationals such as Uber and Lyft, will be required to pay into the workers’ compensation fund.

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“The workers who appear at the touch of a button to drive us home or deliver our dinner deserve to be treated fairly,” said Bains at an announcement Thursday about the new rules, expected to come into effect in early 2024.

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“We know how important these services are to people in B.C. and our goal is to balance the needs of workers while supporting the continuation of these services.”

The sector — which is growing rapidly and now employs an estimated 11,000 ride-hail drivers and 27,000 food-delivery workers in B.C. — has often been criticized for low pay, few if any worker benefits and no protection against instant and unexplained termination.

A B.C. Uber driver who was attacked by a passenger earlier this year found himself unable to work and without any income, and it was unclear whether a claim with workers’ compensation would get anywhere because app platforms don’t currently pay into the system.

Drivers often aren’t told the destination for their trip, so it’s often difficult to know whether it fits their schedule. The companies will be forced to be more transparent about that information before a driver takes an assignment.

Gill said he’s confident he and other drivers will feel safer and more secure in their work when the legislation is up and running.

“It’s a crucial step,” said Gill. “It’s very important that we do this today, that we have a precedent set.

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“We can look forward to receiving a fair resolution process, pay that reflects our hard work and basic rights and benefits, just like any contributing member of society.”

Bains said consultations with workers showed they value the flexibility of gig work, but often end up working long days at below minimum wage.

Many are newcomers to Canada and face language barriers and other challenges landing a job, often because their foreign credentials aren’t recognized here, said Janet Routledge, parliamentary secretary for labour.

“All workers, regardless of where they’re from or what they do, deserve minimum employment standards and protections,” said Routledge.

Bains said the proposed new regulations were developed with input from app-based workers, platform companies, labour organizations, business associations and the public.

Uber said it supports new policies that “protect the flexibility and independence of app-based workers while offering benefits and protections tailored to the work they do.”

But the ride-hailing giant said it plans to keep a close eye on how the regulations are drafted.

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“This is an encouraging step but, as always, the devil is always in the details,” said Uber spokesperson Keerthana Rang. “We will monitor legislative and regulatory developments closely so that drivers and delivery people retain their flexibility and gain benefits without jeopardizing the reliable and affordable ride-share and delivery services British Columbians rely on.”

The labour organization B.C. Fed, which raised the issue of the injured Uber driver with Bains, said it’s “relieved” workers’ comp is part of the new rules.

But the group’s president, Sussanne Skidmore, said they don’t go far enough.

“We are deeply concerned over where this plan falls short – especially because it denies workers key protections under the law, like paid sick leave,” said Skidmore in a statement.

“Two years ago, the province brought in paid sick leave for all workers in B.C. and told them to stay home when they’re sick,” said B.C. Fed secretary-treasurer Hermender Singh Kailley. “But the message to gig workers seems to be, ‘Keep picking up passengers and making food deliveries, no matter how sick you are.’ That’s indefensible.”

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