Management-side lawyers are warning it could ‘erode the foundational basis of the gig economy’
Foodora couriers in Toronto and Mississauga have won the right to unionize after an historic ruling by the Ontario Labour Relations Board.
The ruling also threatens to disrupt the gig economy’s business model by rejecting the company’s attempts to classify their workers as “independent contractors.”
#Breaking: Foodora couriers have won the right to join a union, setting a “historic precedent” for precarious workers. The decision opens the door for couriers to become the first app-based workforce in Canada to unionize. https://t.co/OpApmWSw8I
— Toronto Star (@TorontoStar) February 25, 2020
Gig economy workers are not “independent contractors”: “In its ruling Tuesday, the labour board said the couriers more closely resemble employees rather than independent contractors in what the board said was its first decision with respect to the so-called gig economy,” reported CBC News.
Under Ontario’s labour laws, independent contractors — as couriers were previously classified — do not have the right to union certification.
ORLB vice-chair Matthew Wilson noted the couriers are selected by Foodora on terms and conditions set by Foodora. “In a very real sense, the couriers work for Foodora, and not themselves,” he wrote — contrary to what the company argued throughout the dispute.
Gig economy disrupted by labour laws: According to a recent analysis by Tala Khoury from the management-side law firm Fasken LLP, the ruling could set a precedent for other gig economy employers.
“Such a ruling by the board would erode the foundational basis of the gig economy,” Khoury wrote.
“Business as usual”: Foodora told media it is “business as usual” until the final votes are counted — at which point the couriers would be in a recognized bargaining unit.
How about Uber? Uber Black drivers have also filed for certification with OLRB, with the United Food and Commercial Workers.
“This win is a big precedent for anyone in the gig economy who worries about their health, safety, and security,” said UFCW organizer Pablo Godoy.
Meanwhile other Uber drivers are involved in a high-profile supreme court case against the company — which is looking to refer claims drivers are misclassified as independent contractors to private arbitration in the Netherlands.