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Gig work has increased from 5.5 per cent of the workforce in 2005 to 8.2 per cent in 2016, according to a new Statistics Canada analysis. The report—based on census and administrative data, including tax slips—shows more women (9.1 per cent versus 7.2 per cent for men) and new Canadians doing gig work, and an uptick in the number of people who do gig work exclusively, as well as those supplementing their salaries. The average annual earnings through gig work were $4,303. (The Logic)

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Talking point: The number of women is increasing faster than the number of men gig workers, and gig workers are also more likely to be immigrants. Given the low wages for these workers, that trend could exacerbate wage gaps that already exist for women and marginalized groups. That employed workers are gigging to top up their salaries could also signal challenges in the traditional labour market, suggesting many workers can’t get enough hours or pay to make ends meet with one job. The last year has seen policymakers and workers push for better working conditions in the growing gig economy, including guaranteed minimum pay, vacation and benefits. Last year, the B.C. government passed legislation expanding its authority to set fares and distribute licences ahead of ride-hailing companies’ foray in the province. Foodora couriers in Toronto, meanwhile, are currently fighting for the right to unionize at the Ontario Labour Relations Board

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The ride-sharing company is challenging an Ontario court’s decision that allowed a class action to proceed, led by an Uber Eats driver claiming workers like him are employees, not contractors. Uber originally got the action stayed thanks to an arbitration clause in its driver agreement, which requires disputes to be mediated under Dutch law, costing drivers US$14,500. (The Logic)

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Talking point: Uber’s lawyers argued, among other things, that the Supreme Court of Canada’s own previous rulings in arbitration cases mean that it’s up to an arbitrator to decide if the clause is valid. But the driver’s lawyers said the clause was essentially unfair, a position with which the lower court had agreed. In questions Wednesday to lawyers for Uber and arbitration organizations that intervened on its side, the Supreme Court judges focused on the terms of Uber’s clause; Justice Malcolm Rowe compared it to “a door to a brick wall.” If Uber’s challenge is unsuccessful, the drivers will still need a court to certify their suit as a class action, then win that suit to be classified as employees.

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In an op-ed, Dara Khosrowshahi proposed a new model for gig work that would “give workers cash that they can use for the benefits they want, like health insurance or paid time off.” (The New York Times)

 

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Talking point: Khosrowshahi’s proposal comes as Uber and other gig-economy companies await a California judge’s ruling on a preliminary injunction over the classification of their workers. The ride-hailing company is also part of a group of firms trying to pass a California ballot measure that would exempt them from the ruling. In his op-ed, Khosrowshahi argued Uber’s drivers should not be treated like employees because it would hurt their flexibility in choosing their working hours and benefits, and that the company “would only have full-time jobs for a small fraction of our current drivers and only be able to operate in many fewer cities than today.” He asked states to do more to provide legislation for gig companies, and promised to be “more transparent about what drivers make and the realities of the work.”

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The food-delivery competitors filed a joint lawsuit with two app-based drivers in Los Angeles federal court Monday, challenging legislation that could force the companies to treat their drivers as employees. Their suit argues the law is a “thinly veiled attempt” to compromise the flexibility provided by the gig economy. (Reuters)

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Talking point: This is the first suit any of the big gig-economy companies have filed against the legislation, which was signed in September and is set to take effect Wednesday. It follows two similar legal challenges, setting up an intense battle in the new year. The lawsuit cites a study that found the legislation would increase Lyft’s operating costs by 20 per cent and remove 300,000 drivers from California’s roads. Postmates said in a statement that instead of the bill, the state should engage in serious talks “to modernize a robust safety net designed specifically for the needs of on-demand workers”—a framework it said is “not currently contemplated under state and federal law.”

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Officials from Employment and Social Development Canada (ESDC) felt that studies from Statistics Canada and the Bank of Canada don’t accurately measures how many Canadians work in the gig economy. The department is looking to take part in an international survey of platform-based workers, as well as an in-depth study with Statistics Canada, which could both take place in 2020. (Canadian Press)

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Talking point: Gig workers make up an increasingly large part of the overall workforce—some estimate the U.S. number is at least 25 per cent of the entire workforce. Work in this sector can have low wages, and lack job security or benefits; gig workers also tend to skew young. Measuring the number of workers in the country is therefore important to government officials, but there isn’t currently a number they deem reliable. According to the documents, the studies from the two federal departments had small sample sizes, but claimed Canada had much fewer gig workers than other similar countries. One reason for the issue is that there are different definitions for what jobs fall under the gig economy. ESDC used the U.S. definition, which counts all workers who take on short jobs online or on apps that connect them directly with customers and arrange payments. That would count workers like Uber drivers or Foodora couriers, but it wouldn’t include those who work several part-time jobs or live off short-term contracts.

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On Thursday, a California judge denied Uber and Lyft requests for more time to appeal his decision ordering them to classify drivers as employees beyond the August 20 deadline.It followed a preliminary injunction request by San Francisco’s District Attorney Chesa Boudin “seeking an immediate end to DoorDash’s illegal behavior of failing to provide delivery workers with basic workplace protections.” The food-delivery company said the move was ill-timed: “In the midst of one of the deepest economic recessions in our nation’s history, today’s action … threatens billions of dollars in earnings for California Dashers and revenue for restaurants that rely upon sales from delivery to keep their businesses open.” (BNN Bloomberg, San Francisco Chronicle)

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Talking point: Gig-economy companies are facing mounting pressure from California courts to shift to employing workers full time. Both Uber and Lyft have said that if a higher court doesn’t overturn or further pause the ruling, they’ll suspend their services in the state until the November election, when voters could potentially exempt them by passing a ballot measure to classify gig-economy workers, like delivery drivers, as contractors. Uber, Lyft, DoorDash, Instacart and Postmates have spent more than US$110 million to support the measure in California. The companies face similar actions in Canada, where in June the Supreme Court ruled a $400-million proposed class-action suit on behalf of drivers can proceed.