Last month, one of the organizers leading the drive to unionize Uber drivers in Toronto was fired.
The four-year, Uber Black limousine driver has been open and outspoken in raising driver grievances and encouraging drivers to sign union cards.
Limo drivers at Pearson International Airport are leading the drive to unionize Uber employees in the Greater Toronto Area with the help of the United Food and Commercial Workers Union (UFCW Canada). The union has yet to receive certification, a process which will likely take several months.
Drivers have three major demands: changing (or getting rid of completely) the widely unpopular driver rating system compensation for hours worked, and adherence to provincial labour laws for paid overtime and sick days.
Uber employees are also asking for minimum wage, extended health benefits, and an effective complaints process. Right now, Uber drivers in Toronto say they spend unpaid hours every week waiting for customers, monitoring the Uber app for customers, and queuing at hubs such as the airport for rides.
At the same time, Uber continues to deduct significant fees from drivers for every ride.
And fuel, vehicle maintenance and insurance costs are in most cases left to the driver.
Most significantly, the driver rating system can mean losing your job.
One low rating from a customer who might be abusive, intoxicated, or makes unreasonable or illegal demands (like to make a U-turn in the middle of the road), could result in a driver being “permanently deactivated.” Uber drivers say there is no effective grievance procedure for a driver who feels that they have been unfairly given a low rating.
Uber limo drivers at the airport, for example, are required by the company to maintain a 4.8 out of 5 rating.
The company argues that drivers are independent contractors and that Uber simply operates a ride-sharing app.
Uber workers in several other countries, however, have successfully argued in court that the app itself is a mechanism of management control. And in jurisdictions like California, for instance, the State legislature is on the verge of passing a law requiring Uber to recognize drivers as employees.
Pablo Godoy is a director for UFCW Canada. Kevin Shimmin is an organizer for the union.