Ontario’s minimum wage for gig workers faces growing criticism
Ontario’s decision to legislate a $15 minimum wage for gig workers has come under increasing criticism from labor rights groups, who say the bill’s wording will actually earn less than minimum wage.
The condemnation of this particular clause of Bill 88 (which the government has also called the Labor Act for Workers) comes as the bill nears Royal Assent ahead of the June 2 provincial election.
On Tuesday, RidefairTO, a coalition of organizations aiming to change ridesharing rules, released a brief report showing that under the new law, rideshare drivers for platforms such as Uber and Lyft will end up earning $52 % less than minimum wage on average each hour, or $7.20. They say this is because drivers will only be paid for ‘committed time’, i.e. the time they spend picking up and dropping off passengers, as opposed to the entire time they are on the road.
“Bill 88 will not help gig workers. On the contrary, it allows the government to introduce ‘committed time’ as a legal principle to allow employers to reduce the wages of workers in all sectors as soon as their work is curated by gig platforms,” said Earla Phillips, veteran Uber driver and member of RidefairTO.
The question of how wages are calculated for gig workers – which includes not only ride-hailing drivers, but also grocery and food delivery couriers – is at the heart of a heated global debate on the issue. whether these technology platform workers should be classified as employees. and enjoy protections under labor law.
Why more companies should encourage their employees to pursue a side-hustle
Ontario to introduce law requiring employers to tell employees if they track them electronically
Currently, gig workers across Canada, a growing proportion of the workforce, are independent contractors and are not eligible for minimum wage, vacation pay, and health benefits. They also do not contribute to federal programs such as the Canada Pension Plan and Employment Insurance.
Over the past few months, however, Ontario Premier Doug Ford has taken a series of steps to help low-wage workers and those working for app-based companies in a bid to get support ahead of his re-election campaign this spring. The Digital Platform Workers Rights Act, part of Bill 88, will require companies to pay minimum wage to on-demand workers, disclose more about how the apps they use, and to provide workers with a formal wage.
But the wording of the minimum wage clause is unclear, critics say. The bill states that platform operators should pay the minimum wage for “every task performed by a worker”.
RidefairTO’s report based its $7.20 per hour calculation on data from a November 2021 study released by the City of Toronto on the impact of ride-sharing services on traffic conditions. The study found that Toronto-area carpool drivers spend approximately 40% of their time waiting for a ride and 60% of their time making a ride. When engaged, 48% of a driver’s time would be spent driving a passenger, while 12% would be spent driving to pick up or wait for a passenger.
RidefairTO’s wage demand assumes that a driver will only be paid for the time they spend driving a passenger.
“The way the law is worded, a platform might be able to claim that time spent driving to a client doesn’t count,” said Andrew Monkhouse, a Toronto-based labor and employment lawyer. . From a worker protection perspective, leaving it up to the employer to decide what “committed time” means is problematic, he added.
Ontario Labor Minister Monte McNaughton defended the minimum wage for workers at the request of his government at a press conference on Tuesday, saying RidefairTO’s claims were “not correct.” He said gig workers in New York, who introduced similar rules, had seen their pay rise.
“We are the first province in Canada to move forward with a set of rights for gig workers,” he said.
Mr McNaughton referred to a December 2020 study conducted by Michael Reich, a labor economist at the University of California, Berkeley, which showed that after New York imposed a minimum wage standard of $17.22 US per hour for drivers in February 2019, the average hourly wage increased by 8.9% compared to what they received without a wage floor.
But the study also noted that Uber and Lyft responded to the policy by ceasing driver onboarding and limiting the number of drivers on their apps, reducing idle time between rides.
Uber is advocating that app workers be paid $18 an hour in Ontario, to compensate for uncommitted time. The ride-sharing giant says that during uncommitted times, drivers and deliverers can perform other tasks or actively receive requests on other delivery and ride-sharing apps. “Our research shows that 52% of drivers and delivery people engage in multiapping, so it’s unclear which platform would be responsible for uncommitted time,” a statement from Uber Canada said.
The company also said that RidefairTO’s analysis based on the Toronto report only considers one day of data, not a trend over time.
Jennifer Scott, president of Gig Workers United, says the bill’s wording is confusing because it doesn’t address unforeseen circumstances. “If a courier’s car or bike breaks down, preventing them from fulfilling the order, does that mean they aren’t getting paid for the time spent picking up the order?” We just don’t know what it will be like,” she said.
Joshua Mandryk, an employment lawyer with Toronto-based Goldblatt Partners LLP, told The Globe that the bill fuels false narratives that rig workers are somehow different from other workers at a legally significant way.
Instead of defining special employment rights in the form of a new bill, Mandryk argues, the government should instead take steps to ‘crack down on misclassifications’ and clarify employee status gig workers under the Employment Standards Act.
But some construction workers, especially those working part-time for delivery applications, say the current system is working just fine. According to Spencer Thompson, a longtime Uber Eats courier based in downtown Toronto, bike couriers who are particularly quick and able to make many deliveries in a single shift already earn well over minimum wage. “If the tips are good and there are enough people, I can make over $30 an hour these days.”
Mr Thompson, whose main source of income works for a software company, said he had not logged on to Uber Eats in months but decided to use the app last weekend and was offered an $80 bonus for making 10 deliveries.
“I think the algorithm wanted to trick me into continuing to work for the app since I hadn’t been there in a while. It’s a good setup if you’re doing it part-time,” he said. he stated. “But I would probably want to have full employee rights if that was my only job.”
With files by Jeff Gray
Your time is valuable. Receive the Top Business Headlines newsletter in your inbox morning or evening. register today.