The B.C. government is proposing new employment standards for gig workers with ride-hailing and food delivery apps, including a minimum wage, tip protection and workers’ compensation coverage.
The proposed amendments to the Employment Standards Act and the Workers Compensation Act are meant to ensure that workers who take gigs through online platforms are treated like employees, according to a press release from the province.
“The workers who appear at the touch of a button to drive us home or deliver our dinner deserve to be treated fairly,” Labour Minister Harry Bains said in the release.
“That’s why we’re taking action to address the problems that the workers themselves raised.”
Provincial estimates put the number of ride-hailing drivers in B.C. at about 11,000, along with 27,000 food-delivery workers.
The government says gig economy workers have said they value the flexibility of this kind of work, but they struggle with low or unpredictable wages and being cut off from the job without warning.
The proposed plan includes a minimum earnings standard for engaged time at 120 per cent of minimum wage before tips — or $20.10 an hour at the current minimum wage of $16.75. The rate is higher because engaged time would not include the time spent waiting for the next ride or delivery.
App companies would be responsible for topping up the difference if a worker’s earnings don’t meet the minimum standards.
The Labour Ministry says it’s also consulting with online platforms to create a mechanism to compensate workers for using their own vehicle.
“Some newcomers to Canada face language barriers or other challenges that make it difficult to find a job, and app-based work can provide a quick source of income,” Janet Routledge, the parliamentary secretary for labour, said.
“All workers, regardless of where they’re from or what they do, deserve minimum employment standards and protections.”
The proposal also includes measures prohibiting companies from withholding tips, requiring transparency about how much each gig will earn, creating an official review process when workers are let go and providing coverage under WorkSafeBC.
The province says the proposed changes will require legislative approval before they can be implemented.
‘The government’s approach falls far short’: BCFED
Ride-hailing drivers who attended a press conference announcing the proposal said the planned minimum wage standard is not high enough to cover their operating costs and provide for their families.
“I don’t make enough these days,” driver Kuljeet Singh told CBC News. “You don’t have overtime, you don’t have vacations, you don’t have benefits, you don’t have dental — you don’t have anything.”
He said a minimum standard of $30-$35 an hour would be more appropriate.
Fellow driver Inderraj Gill agreed with that assessment, saying that gig workers often have to deal with unexpected down time, such as when their cars break down.
“Even going to [the] washroom, sometimes that feels like ‘hmm, maybe I’ll put that off,'” he said.
But Gill said he believes Thursday’s announcement is just a starting point.
“Kuljeet is running on fumes. I’m still optimistic,” he said, referring to Singh.
Labour leaders had similarly mixed feelings.
B.C. Federation of Labour president Sussanne Skidmore said she was relieved to see the proposal, especially the promise of workers’ compensation, but she believes the plan doesn’t go far enough.
“We are deeply concerned over where this plan falls short — especially because it denies workers key protections under the law, like paid sick leave,” she said in a news release.
Skidmore added that she is concerned that drivers and delivery workers won’t be guaranteed pay for the time they spend waiting for the next assignment.
“On the whole … the government’s approach falls far short of the rights and protections gig workers deserve, especially considering that so many of them are racialized workers and newcomers,” Skidmore said.
Other labour issues that have not been addressed in B.C.’s plan include overtime, holidays and paid leave.
Uber, which operates both ride-hailing and food delivery services on its app, said it is generally supportive of the proposal, but will be watching implementation closely, while competitor Lyft said it looks forward to working with the province on the changes.
A spokesperson for the delivery app DoorDash was less enthusiastic
“While we support some of the measures the government has proposed, we believe it is wrong to set a premium, higher minimum wage for just one group of workers,” the spokesperson said in an email.
“This change could make delivery more expensive for consumers, and that would mean much less business for restaurants and fewer earning opportunities for workers.”