VANCOUVER -- Should the people who drive for Uber and Lyft be considered employees or just independent contractors?

That's a question one union wants settled before the highly anticipated launch of ride-hailing services in B.C., and the answer could impact which companies decide to operate in the province.

Under the Employment Standards Act, workers who are classified as employees are entitled to minimum wage, paid vacation days and a host of other rights and protections.

Independent contractors – people considered to be self-employed – don't benefit from the same rights.

On Wednesday, the United Food and Commercial Workers union filed an application asking B.C.'s Labour Relations Board to declare ride-hailing drivers employees, pointing to labour issues that have emerged in other cities and countries.

"Time and time again, across the globe, Lyft and Uber drivers have raised concerns that they are forced to work long hours and struggle to earn minimum wage," union president Kim Novak said in a statement.

"Many jurisdictions have scrambled to protect workers after the fact; we want to make sure that workers are protected before ride-hailing services launch this year."

The BC Federation of Labour, which supports the union's campaign, has also previously noted several ways ride-hailing drivers lack independence. The companies generally set fares, determine how rides are accepted, collect payments and take profits.

In Toronto, where Uber has operated for years, the UFCW said "hundreds" of drivers have joined the union in the hopes of securing better protections.

A spokesperson for Lyft told CTV News the company would need time to review the application before commenting. A request for comment from Uber on Wednesday afternoon has not been returned.

While the two companies represent the best known ride-hailing services, UFCW said at least 17 others have applied to operate in B.C.

"The options will certainly be abundant," Novak said. "We have the same expectation of all: they must comply with the law and uphold employment standards for drivers in our province."