Statement of the CLC and provincial and territorial federations of labour in response to the Ontario Workforce Recovery Advisory Committee Report

December 20, 2021 at 7:56 am  Labour

The Canadian Labour Congress and Canada’s provincial and territorial federations of labour unanimously reject the recommendations of the report of the Ontario’s Workforce Recovery Advisory Committee (OWRAC) that would enshrine second-class status for gig workers.

We believe every worker deserves the same high standard of protection under the law. Employers have long used excuses to misclassify their employees as independent contractors, and have lobbied for exceptions and special categories that restrict workers’ rights. In recent years, platform companies like Uber, Lyft and Skip the Dishes have taken that effort to new extremes that threaten workers everywhere.

Globally, app-based workers are standing up, overturning misclassification as independent contractors, and coming together to improve their working conditions. Courts and legislatures in France, Spain, Belgium, Chile, Australia, and numerous other countries are recognizing the presumption of employment status for food delivery workers and other app-company gig workers. The new European Union Commission directive, establishing the presumption of employee status unless the company can prove the platform worker is an independent contractor, shows us that around the world, the tide is turning towards full employment rights for app-based workers. The OWRAC report recommendations are offside and out of step with this global trend.

We repeat our call from March 2021 for governments to give app-based gig workers the same legal protections as other workers, and to end employee misclassification. The CLC and Canada’s central labour bodies urge all governments to apply employment standards universally and eliminate exceptions and special categories that restrict worker rights. We urge governments to end the misclassification of workers as independent contractors and reverse the legal onus so employers must prove a worker is not an employee and is truly an independent contractor.

The OWRAC report has recommended the opposite. In line with the wishes of the digital platform companies like Uber, Lyft and Skip the Dishes, OWRAC recommends the government of Ontario create a new category of dependent contractor under employment standards legislation which would give gig workers fewer rights and entitlements than employees. Workers classified as dependent contractors would continue to have reduced or restricted access to the Canada Pension Plan, Employment Insurance, and workers’ compensation that are the bedrock of decent work. Instead, OWRAC recommends the government establish a ‘portable benefits’ scheme which will unquestionably provide inferior benefits for these workers.

As the report of the Expert Panel on Modern Federal Labour Standards recognized, the best portable benefits are universal social programs like Canada Pension Plan, Employment Insurance and national Pharmacare. Ontario workers need and deserve full access to EI and CPP, not crumbs tossed into an individual savings account.

OWRAC has heard and responded to the wishes of the platform companies, whose business model exploits the fact that workers are denied basic minimum employment standards. At the same time, OWRAC has ignored the recommendations of gig workers themselves and labour groups that are demanding governments and advisory groups protect workers’ rights, not the gig employers.

The Canadian labour movement remains firmly united with the growing global movement demanding full rights and protections for gig economy workers. We reject the platform companies’ efforts to pressure governments to invent a niche category for app-based employment. Like Proposition 22 in California, Uber and other platform companies are hoping the Ford government will enshrine insecurity and inferior work conditions into Ontario’s legislation while undermining the right of workers to organize.

Gig work is vitally important work but commonly underpaid and undervalued. Grocery store workers, delivery drivers, bike couriers and many others play a critical role in keeping our economy moving and ensuring that we have essential supplies. This work matters, and these workers matter.

Governments have a responsibility to make work better – to provide workers with security, safety and fair pay. We reiterate our call on the provincial, territorial and federal governments to protect gig and app based workers by:

  • Applying employment standards universally and eliminating exceptions and special categories that restrict worker rights;
  • Proactively addressing the misclassification of workers as independent contractors and reversing the legal onus so employers must prove a worker is not an employee and is truly an independent contractor; and
  • Ensuring all workers have the right to organize into a union should they choose and making that right meaningful by addressing barriers to organizing.

Endorsing bodies:

Canadian Labour Congress
Alberta Federation of Labour
British Columbia Federation of Labour
Manitoba Federation of Labour
New Brunswick Federation of Labour
Newfoundland and Labrador Federation of Labour
Northern Territories Federation of Labour
Nova Scotia Federation of Labour
Ontario Federation of Labour
Prince Edward Island Federation of Labour
Saskatchewan Federation of Labour
Yukon Federation of Labour

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