Hearing on Foodora union push and gig economy gets underway at labour board

TORONTO — A hearing related to a union drive at food delivery company Foodora that is expected to have implications for workers and companies in the gig economy was underway Tuesday.

The Ontario Labour Relations Board is set to hear a number of issues raised by both couriers looking to unionize, and the company — which opposes the push — including whether couriers are independent contractors or employees, and which couriers should be eligible to vote in a union drive.

The hearing comes after a union certification vote at Foodora in August was challenged, and the results sealed until the issues at the board are resolved.

The issues are complicated by how easy it is to sign up, or stop, delivering for companies like Foodora. A number of the ballots in the union vote did not answer when their last day of work was with the company, raising questions of whether they were active couriers and if their votes should be counted.

The hearing, which could stretch on for months over numerous hearing dates, will also have to look into what the typical work profile is for Foodora couriers to help determine if they are self-employed or employees.

Couriers voted on whether to join the Canadian Union of Postal Workers, which has also filed an unfair labour practice complaint with the board over claims that Foodora Canada spread misinformation during the union drive.

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 last year 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.

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