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Labour relations board rules Foodora workers have right to unionize

Last Updated Feb 25, 2020 at 4:41 pm EDT

The Foodora logo is shown in a handout. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO MANDATORY CREDIT

The Ontario Labour Relations Board (OLRB) has ruled that couriers with Foodora, a food app delivery service, are dependent contractors and have the legal right to unionize.

Foodora had classified their couriers as independent contractors, rather than employees.

The decision released by the OLRB stated: “The couriers are selected by Foodora and required to deliver food on the terms and conditions determined by Foodora in accordance with Foodora’s standards. In a very real sense, the couriers work for Foodora, and not themselves.”

It also acknowledged that this is the board’s first decision which pertains to workers within the “gig economy,” but is far from the first time they have examined the relationship between a courier and their employer.

A union certification vote was held at Foodora in August to join the Canadian Union of Postal Workers (CUPW), but the results were challenged and sealed until the issues at the labour board were resolved.

CUPW also filed an unfair labour practice complaint with the board over claims that Foodora Canada spread misinformation during the union drive.

CUPW National President Jan Simpson said in a release this decision, “shows that the tide is turning towards justice for thousands of gig workers in Ontario and soon these workers will have the right to their union.”

Ivan Ostos, a Foodora courier, says he helped work on the unionization campaign because of the stakes of the fight to give gig workers a voice in their working conditions.

Foodora said it is reviewing the decision and is assessing how it will move forward with the couriers in Toronto and Mississauga.

The union has said that, if certified, it would negotiate a better compensation model, as well as health and safety protections for when workers are injured, as well as recognition of basic workers’ rights.

Foodora’s workers are paid $4.50 per order plus $1 per kilometre between the restaurant and delivery address, while restaurants pay the company up to about 30 per cent of the order total.

The treatment of workers has become a hot button issue globally as major players like Uber, Lyft, and a range of delivery companies challenge assertions that the people doing the driving and delivering are employees.

A court in the U.K. found in 2018 that Uber drivers should be classified as workers rather than self-employed contractors, while California legislators are trying to pass a new law to limit when some companies can label workers as independent contractors.