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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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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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Xu announced the change in a tweet on Tuesday night. DoorDash had previously used tips to make up the minimum payment to couriers from deliveries. Also on Wednesday, a Madrid court ruled that Deliveroo couriers are employees, not freelancers, making them entitled to benefits and formal contracts. (The Verge, Reuters)

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Talking point: DoorDash is the latest tech company to change policy following employee concerns. In this case, DoorDash has been facing months of pressure from its employees and concerns from others in the tech industry. The response is unusual for a firm in the gig-economy space, as worker demands to other delivery firms have largely gone unfulfilled. In Canada, Toronto’s Foodora couriers are seeking to unionize, citing problems like their lack of benefits. Foodora did not directly address the issue. But the Berlin-based firm pulled out of Australia entirely in 2018, after the nation’s fair-work ombudsman took it to court alleging several Foodora couriers were classified as independent contractors while doing the work of full-time employees.

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At a Wednesday press conference, United Food and Commercial Workers Canada (UFCW) announced that hundreds of Uber drivers in Toronto have expressed interest in joining their union. The drivers are asking for an end to the app’s user-based ratings system, which they say causes drivers to disregard road safety. They are also asking to be paid minimum-wage, as well as sick and vacation days. Pablo Godoy, the union’s national coordinator for gig- and platform-employer initiatives, said the union will reach out to Uber and government Wednesday afternoon. Uber declined to comment. (The Logic)

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Talking point: The drivers face an uphill battle to having their demands met. UFCW still needs to get the union certified, a process for which it’s seeking the help of federal and provincial governments. Similar efforts by Big Tech gig economy workers in Toronto have not yet led to changes in employment status or conditions, despite several groups of gig workers seeking representation. In May, Foodora couriers in Toronto said they’re seeking to unionize in Ontario, organizing with the Canadian Union of Postal Workers. They are still in the process of certifying the union and, if they do, will have to convince the labour board that the couriers are dependent Foodora workers, not independent contractors. And, in December 2018, Toronto delivery drivers said Amazon was blocking their attempts to unionize with UFCW.

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Thousands of drivers in the U.S., Canada, Europe and Australia turned their apps off on Wednesday to protest for better pay and working conditions. Many drivers are focusing on the company’s “take rate,” the 20 per cent of a driver’s fee that goes to Uber. In Montreal, half of the city’s 25,000 drivers participated in the protest, according to the Professional Association of Uber Drivers. The Montreal drivers are asking for a guaranteed hourly wage of at least $18 (a 2018 report from the Economic Policy Institute suggested Uber drivers in the U.S. make on average US$9.20 per hour). Many Lyft drivers also joined the protest; the Uber rival went public in March at a US$24.3-million valuation. (Vox, Montreal Gazette)

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Talking point: The strike comes two days before the company is set to go public at a valuation between US$80 billion and US$90 billion, slightly lower than previously estimated. The protest draws attention to the immense wealth disparity between Uber and its contracted “driver partners”—a gap that will widen even more when the company goes public. Those poised to profit off the IPO include Travis Kalanick, the company’s co-founder and disgraced former CEO, who will make close to US$8 billion; Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, with about US$400 million; and major funds like Benchmark and Menlo Ventures, which stand to make US$7.9 billion and US$3 billion, respectively. Of the 180 million shares the company will issue, just 5.4 million are reserved for drivers.

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Some of the gig workers at the food delivery service announced plans on Wednesday to organize with the Canadian Union of Postal Workers (CUPW). In order to unionize, CUPW will have to convince the provincial labour board that the estimated 550 couriers are Foodora employees, rather than independent contractors, as the company currently classifies them. (Toronto Star)

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Talking point: Union representation will help couriers negotiate for better pay and working conditions. It could also set a precedent for other gig workers. The food delivery market is  seeing more grievances from couriers amid rapid growth in the space—the market is anticipated to reach US$2.1 billion by 2023, up from about US$1.4 billion currently. That includes strikes against Foodora competitors UberEats and Deliveroo in several cities in the U.K.  and Australia. A handful of lawsuits in Europe have ruled in favour of individual couriers claiming they should have employee status. But if Ontario Foodora couriers are successful, it could be the most sweeping change to employee status at an online food-delivery company yet, since it involves all of them. Meanwhile, Uber and Lyft halted driver hirings in New York City in April until 2020, after the city introduced a US$17.22 minimum wage for drivers.

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Seven experts led by Sunil Johal—policy director at the Mowat Centre, a Toronto-based think-tank—will suggest ways to modernize labour standards by June 30, 2019. The panel will examine issues including  protections for workers in non-standard work—part-time and temporary jobs, or self-employment—as well as disconnecting from work communications outside the work day and benefits accessibility and portability. (The Logic)

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Talking point: The share of Canada’s labour force doing non-standard work has been above one-third since the late 1990s, suggesting it’s about time to address the challenges of those workers. But that’s not because of the rise of the gig economy. An internal government document from June 2018—obtained by The Logic via an access-to-information request—states that “so far there is little evidence that gigs are an important part of Canada’s labour market,” although its definition is restricted to ridesharing and short-term rental services.