Canadian Uber Benefits Maneuver, Mexico Uber May Pay Social Security

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Uber Technologies is making a new app-based worker benefits maneuver in Canada — a proposed flexible benefits fund managed by delivery and rideshare companies and blessed by the Provincial governments. Meanwhile, Uber in Mexico is reportedly mulling paying social security taxes for gig-worker drivers there.

Both developments come as Uber and other gig-worker companies are facing greater scrutiny for their labor practices in markets outside the United States.

Uber in Canadian maneuver
Uber’s Canadian Maneuver

Uber Technologies Inc.’s Canadian division is calling for a “flexible benefits fund” for independent contractors who work through online apps — like Uber’s.

“The research makes it clear that it’s never been more important to protect the flexibility of platform work, while providing additional benefits and protections to workers,” according to Uber Canada’s press release on the proposal. “Today, we’re sharing a proposed blueprint for what a flexible benefits fund could look like for app-based workers in Canada.”

The research cited by Uber Canada comes from a report it commissioned with the consulting firm Accenture. The research reported found found that delivery sign-ups followed the unemployment rate. No surprise there.

Branded as part of Uber’s Flexible Benefits+ proposal in Canada includes:

  • The flexible benefits fund enabled by provincial governments and managed by industry for delivery and rideshare app-based platforms. All platform companies would provide data on worker hours and earnings. The organization would tell each platform the amount they need to provide to cover their share of the workers’ total benefits.
  • App-based delivery and rideshare workers qualify for the benefits fund based on completing a specified amount of engaged hours per quarter, and aggregated across all companies.
  • When a worker’s aggregate hours surpass a certain threshold, all retained earnings in that quarter would be multiplied by the benefit rate at that level. The resulting benefit amount would be put into an account.
  • Each app-based platform a worker worked for during that quarter would pay its share of that benefit amount, based on its share of the worker’s quarterly earnings.
  • Workers could use the funds for health and dental benefits, life insurance, registered retirement savings plan contributions and educational expenditures.

The proposals is not all bureaucratic or confusing like what Uber called “Canada’s outdated labour system.”

Uber Canada is waging a campaign to convince provincial governments to set up an alternative set of labor regulations to govern gig workers and offer them “self-directed benefits” and “enhanced worker protections.”

Canadian labor advocates, unions and labor law experts have cast a skeptical eye on the Uber move.

Nothing in Canadian labor law or any other law currently prevents Uber from providing benefits to its drivers, tweeted David Doorey, associate professor of work law at York University in Toronto, told Canadian

“What Uber is saying is ‘We won’t provide these benefits unless you change labour laws to exempt us from minimum labour standards,’” he told HHRerporter.

Economist and director at the Centre for Future Work in Vancouver, Jim Stanford, also expressed doubts on Twitter about the Uber plan.

“[It’s] pretty amazing that Uber Canada has the gall to launch a faux protest against [government] over Canada’s unfair labour system in which some workers get benefits and protections while others do not,” Stanford tweeted.

“Cynical ploy” were the words used by Paul Meinema, national president, United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) Canada.

A recent Supreme Court judgement in the U.K. ruled that Uber drivers are in fact employees. In February 2020, the Ontario Labour Relations Board (OLRB) released a decision stating Foodora couriers are dependent contractors and must be treated as such by their employer.

On Aug 13, 2021, Ontario’s Superior Court of Justice certified a class-action lawsuit against Uber, with the aim of to getting some of the platform’s Canadian couriers and drivers recognized as employees.

The class action stems from a court filing made by Samfiru Tumarkin LLP and Uber Eats courier David Heller in 2017.

The lawsuit argues that Uber couriers should be entitled to minimum wage, vacation pay and other protections because they meet the definition of employees under Ontario’s Employment Standards Act, the Canadian Broadcasting Coororation (CBC) reports..

“Uber has complete control over these drivers, when they work, how they work, what they get paid for the work that they do,” Samfiru Tumarkin lawyer Samara Belitzky, who works in the firm’s Ottawa office, told the CBC.

“I could go on and on, but there are so many examples of how Uber has this control over these drivers, yet the drivers don’t have the benefits and the protections that employees would normally have in situations, where the employer is in control.”

Canadian politicians and and unions would be wise to be wary of Uber’s political pressure.

Facing legal action over worker misclassification, gig companies including Uber had funded Proposition 22, a ballot initiative in California last year. Proposition 22 was the most expensive ballot proposition in California history. A majority of the voters supported the independent contractor status for its workers but a California judge recently ruled Prop 22 unconstitutional. It remains in effect while legal appeals take place.

Ontario’s political leadership and courts in recent years has been open to weakening labor laws in that province, especially if Uber is involved.

Meanwhile, south of the American border, Bloomberg reports that Uber is mulling paying social security taxes in Mexico.

Bloomberg reports Uber Technologies is talking with the Mexican government about ways to contribute to the social security system on behalf of its contractors without designating them as full employees.

“These conversations should be grounded in trying to preserve the flexibility of independent work, while also recognizing that this type of work needs to get better,” Bloomberg quotes Andrew Macdonald, Uber’s senior vice president for mobility, as saying.

Mexico’s Labor Minister Luisa Maria Alcalde is discussing regulationg gig-worker worker conditions. The country is working with the Social Security Institute and Mexico City authorities on a plan, she reportedly said Aug. 19.

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