Uber accused of firing drivers for refusing unsafe work

B.C. union complains to Labour Relations Board about ride-hailing firm's labour practices

Uber accused of firing drivers for refusing unsafe work

A workers’ union in British Columbia is bringing Uber to the Labour Relations Board over unfair labour practices.

The United Food & Commercial Workers Union UFCW 1518 is claiming that the company fired drivers who refused unsafe work.

In one incident, a customer threatened to file a complaint against a driver and became violent after the driver asked her to wear a mask while she was in his vehicle. The driver called the police who had to remove the customer from the driver’s car, according to the union.

In another incident, a driver refused to take four passengers in his vehicle as this is against Uber’s explicit COVID-19 safety regulations. The driver believes that the customer who ordered the trip retaliated against him by leaving a bad review and rating.

“Drivers reported that they frequently had to deal with intoxicated and impaired customers who were rude, demanding and insulting. When they asked the riders to tone down their behaviour, they indicated that they would lodge a formal complaint against the drivers,” said UFCW 1518.

The union noted that both drivers had “strong driving records and high customer ratings and reviews”, yet they found one day that the Uber app had been “deactivated from their phones”.

The workers also tried to air their side to their employer, but found no success, according to the union.

“For all of the drivers involved, working for Uber was their chief source of income. The drivers had been working as Uber drivers for several months without incident, and one had over 1,000 five-star reviews on his account. Being fired without investigation and with no protection has devastated these drivers, who rely on working for the app to support their families,” said the union.

Should the board favour the unions’ complaint, the workers can be reinstated.

Previously, a settlement was finalized by the Canadian Union of Postal Workers (CUPW) and Delivery Hero, the parent company for Foodora Canada, allowing former Foodora food couriers across the country to receive a $3.46 M settlement after the company filed for bankruptcy and shut down its Canadian operations.


UFCW 1518 also is also seeking changes to the Employment Standards Act to enable app-based contract workers like Uber drivers to join a union and receive other basic protections.

The union sent a letter to Harry Bains, minister of labour, and Adam Walker, parliamentary secretary, asking for changes that will allow app-based contract workers like Uber drivers to be classified as employees and enable them to receive other basic protections.

In August, Uber proposed to change the way app-based workers get benefits from their employer. The ride-hailing company released a blueprint or “industry approach” for its Flexible Benefits Fund.

In February 2020, the couriers and drivers in Toronto and Mississauga were granted the right to unionize when the Ontario Labour Relations Board (OLRB) ruled that they were dependent contractors and not independent contractors, as was their previous classification.

That decision allowed the union certification votes, sealed since Aug. 2019, to be counted. In June of last year, the results were announced: Almost 90 percent of Foodora couriers voted in favour of unionizing with CUPW, becoming the first app-based workers in Canada to successfully unionize.