Uber forces Canadian workers into a ‘trades union’

When is union representation not union representation? It appears that this is the case when a business like Uber signs a deal with private union United Food and Commercial Workers Canada (UFCW) with no consultation with the drivers affected.

Last week ride hailing and delivery giant came to an agreement with UFCW – with no consultation with its drivers – for UFCW to represent their interests. Uber drivers will automatically be represented by the UFCW and will not pay anything toward their membership. The 100,000 Canadian drivers can ask the ‘union’ for support when they are in dispute with Uber.

“We’ve come together to find common ground and blaze a new trail towards a better future for app-based workers,” said Andrew Macdonald, Uber’s senior vice-president of global rides and platform, in a release.

“Through this agreement, we’re prioritising what drivers and delivery people tell us they want: enhancing their flexibility to work if, when, and where they want with a stronger voice and new benefits and protections.”

There have been moves around the world for Uber drivers to join unions to fight for things like full employment rights and better rates of pay. As gig workers they lack job security, holiday pay and sick pay amongst other things.

Where it comes to the Uber/UFCW tie up, North America’s Gig Workers United advocacy group expressed disappointment that the drivers were not consulted over the agreement.“This is the illusion of a union. This is the illusion of workers representation, but it is not,” said Brice Sopher, a Toronto UberEats courier representing the group.

“It is more so to give Uber the protection, the veneer of being progressive, while they will continue probably to push for the regressive rolling back of worker’s rights.”

Uber has been pushing Canadian provincial governments for a middle-ground between full employment rights and a new category it calls Flexible Work+, which still falls below full employment, and it appears the deal with UFCW is to help soften its appearance towards drivers.

“This is just a starting point for the many issues we need to address,” said Paul Meinema, UFCW Canada’s national president, in a video announcing the agreement.

“Uber Canada and UFCW Canada will jointly advocate for industry-wide legislative standards like minimum wage guarantees, a benefits fund, a path to organising, and other rights for workers in the app-based sector.”

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