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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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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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The app-based food-delivery company, which operates in 10 cities across Canada, cited tough competition in a saturated market as a reason for leaving the country. “[Foodora] has unfortunately not been able to reach a strong leadership position, and has been unable to reach a level of profitability in Canada that’s sustainable enough to continue operations,” the firm said in a statement(The Logic)

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Talking point: While some meal-delivery firms have seen a drop in business during the pandemic as more people stay home and cook for themselves, the announcement comes two months after Foodora couriers in Toronto won an historic court case granting them the right to unionize. In the days before Foodora announced its Canadian retreat, lawyers for both parties were negotiating terms for tallying the union vote, cast in August 2019, but put on hold pending the ruling from the Ontario Labour Relations Board, according to a source close to the negotiations. The Logic reported in February of other efforts to unionize the firm’s couriers in Montreal. Foodora did not respond to The Logic’s request for comment as of publication time.