By Sarah Tomlinson
Your Foodora or Uber Eats order may have only needed you to make a few clicks but for the couriers, the job includes dangerous conditions and unfair wages.
Foodora and Uber workers rallied earlier this month in front of the Ontario Labour Relations Board and protested what they described as a misclassification of gig workers as independent contractors. The misclassification allows the companies to avoid providing a minimum wage, unemployment and workers’ compensation, health care benefits, and other traditional protections, according to the worker-run Justice for Foodora Couriers website.
“They want all the profit, but none of the cost,” said Erendira Bravo who has worked for 13 years, both as a cleaner and in construction. Bravo attended the rally as a spokesperson for Workers’ Action Centre, a worker-based organization that works to improve the working conditions of people in low-wage and unstable employment.
According to the Justice for Foodora Couriers website, on the job, couriers feel like they are forced to compromise safety for quick deliveries in order to optimize revenue in all weather conditions.
Ryerson first-year arts and contemporary studies student and Foodora courier, Eliot Rossi said, “There’s this desire to go as hard as you can, even if that means flouting traffic laws and putting yourself in danger and riding too fast on crowded streets.”
According to Rossi, every Wednesday morning, Foodora makes different shifts available to the couriers. If couriers are in the top 10 per cent based on their performance metrics, they get access at 10 a.m. And if not, they get access an hour later.
“It’s all over the place. Some weeks, I just cannot get any shifts. It doesn’t matter that I’ve been working for three and a half years for this company. It doesn’t matter that I used to do this full time. There are no rewards for loyalty,” said Rossi.
He said that when taking time off, there’s always the risk that you can be removed from the priority roster, which happened to him. “I had been removed even though I requested the time through their channels. There was no recourse at all. I couldn’t do anything about it,” said Rossi.
Bravo said, “There is nothing independent about your working conditions. The company holds all the power to tell you how you are supposed to do the work, when you are going to work and how much you’re gonna make.”
Susan McMurray, an executive assistant at the Toronto & York Region Labour Council, said anyone who travels within Toronto knows what it’s like to try to drive in the city. “But if you’re doing it on a bike, it’s even more challenging. There are so many places where you’re just mixed up with the traffic and it’s just more aggressive than ever.”
There is no minimum salary for either Uber, Uber Eats or Foodora, according to the worker-run Justice for Foodora Couriers website. Employees at Foodora make $4.50 per order and $1 per kilometre travelled, while their company receives up to 30 per cent of the order’s total.
Uber claims that its employees can make up to $25 per hour, accounting for a base fare, a booking fee and surge pricing. The base fare is fixed per trip and varies depending on a driver’s location. The booking fee is also a fixed price and covers driver-related expenses that Uber incurs. Surge pricing occurs when there are fewer available drivers and more passenger requests, which increases the cost for the passengers and encourages more drivers to work.
Uber gets 20 per cent of the final fare and the drivers have to cover driving expenses like insurance and gas.
“Underpaying employees is not a cool innovative strategy for saving money. It’s wage theft,” said Alexander Kurth, a bike courier for Foodora and Uber Eats.
Ahmad Jarbou, who works for Foodora, Uber Eats and DoorDash, said that Foodora and Uber Eats do not provide their employees with health insurance if they get injured or sick.
Bravo agreed with Jarbou, “You will lose the wage. You will also most likely lose the job. And forget about getting employment insurance.”
Foodora put out a statement saying that couriers can also be given medical coverage for an injury, and are covered by the Workplace Safety and Insurance Board to receive up to 85 per cent of their pre-injury rate.
“Practically speaking, you can get WSIB to cover physiotherapy and other sorts of medical expenses but getting compensation from them is not an easy process,” said Rossi.
For all those reasons—money and safety—the workers are advocating for unionization. According to the Justice for Foodora Couriers website, unionized workers make $5.11 more per hour than non-union workers. They also have the right to challenge decisions made by their superiors that violate their contract.
“When you’re just one person, it’s hard to fight for your rights. But when you’re a group of people together fighting for the same thing, you have more power,” said Patty Coates, secretary-treasurer of the Ontario Federation of Labour, Canada’s largest provincial labour federation.