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Uber says new B.C. gig-worker rules punish customers, businesses

An Uber driver is seen in Vancouver, Friday, Jan. 24, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck An Uber driver is seen in Vancouver, Friday, Jan. 24, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
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Ride-hailing company Uber is criticizing the British Columbia government's regulatory changes for gig workers, saying the province is set to drive up costs for residents and drive down demand for local businesses.

Uber is one of several app-based driving and delivery platforms, including DoorDash and SkipTheDishes, which will be required to pay their drivers $20.88 per working hour when the new regulations take effect on Sept. 3.

The working-hour minimum wage was set approximately 20 per cent higher than B.C.'s regular minimum wage to account for a worker's time spent waiting between rides or deliveries, when they are not being paid, the province says.

The new rules will also require all of a customer's tips to go directly to the worker.

A spokesperson for Uber in Canada tells CTV News the company supports the increased wages for its drivers, and notes that 100 per cent of its customer tips already go directly into the worker's pocket.

However, the province's new rules also establish a 35- to 45-cent minimum per-kilometre allowance to help workers cover their vehicle expenses. It's this mandate that Uber specifically takes issue with, company spokesperson Keerthana Rang says.

"In the middle of an affordability crisis, a rideshare expense rate that is over 50 per cent higher than the comparable rate in California is unreasonable," Rang said in a statement Thursday.

Uber says it is still reviewing how much more expensive its services will become once the new regulations come into play.

"We encourage the government to reconsider the consequences for British Columbians who rely on rideshare and delivery," Rang added.

'Suck it up,' Eby says

The B.C. Labour Ministry says the regulations are a first in Canada and are the result of years of engagement with stakeholders.

The new rules require platforms show workers the locations and estimated pay for a particular job before they accept it, and the companies must provide a reason if a worker is suspended or terminated from their position.

Ride-hailing and delivery companies will also be required to register workers for coverage with WorkSafeBC and report on-the-job injuries and other incidents for investigation.

"Everyone working hard to support their families should have basic protections," Labour Minister Harry Bains said in a statement announcing the changes Wednesday.

"That is what we are doing with these regulations — providing fair pay and basic protections for these workers."

Uber says the regulations will only punish drivers, customers and the businesses that benefit from delivery services.

"The B.C. government is driving up costs for residents and reducing demand for local restaurants and earning opportunities for workers," Rang said.

Premier David Eby scoffed at Uber's complaints during an unrelated news conference, saying the new regulations will not change.

"These companies can suck it up," he told reporters. "They'll be alright, they'll be fine."

The premier said if Uber increases its costs for customers, users of the service will gravitate to whichever app is most cost-competitive.

"That may be any of those companies, or it may be some entirely different company that starts up in this province."

Eby added that he sometimes uses apps to get food delivered.

"There is no chance that I want my food brought to me by someone who has to use a food bank, or who, if they get attacked at work, isn't covered by WorkSafeBC," he said, firing back at "app-based companies that have billions of dollars in revenue."

Rules won't apply to all gig workers

The B.C. government estimates there are about 11,000 ride-hailing drivers and 35,000 delivery workers in the province.

The province noted the rules will not apply to other types of gig workers, such as freelance writers, musicians or dog walkers.

Unifor western regional director Gavin McGarrigle says in a statement that gig workers are some of the most exploited and under-represented workers in B.C.'s economy.

Unifor says gig workers also deserve unique legal tools to form their own unions.

They say unionizing can be a struggle because of the lack of transparency around these type of companies' total local workforce.

Union votes are triggered in B.C. after 45 per cent of a certifiable group signs a union card.

"However, without accurate knowledge of the threshold, the organizing efforts are more likely to fail or stall. Unifor has lobbied for employers to be forced to provide a payroll list after 20 per cent of workers sign union cards," the union says

With files from The Canadian Press

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