UFCW Canada welcomes Supreme Court ruling deeming Uber arbitration process invalid

TORONTO, June 26, 2020 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- The United Food and Commercial Workers Union (UFCW Canada) welcomes today’s Supreme Court of Canada ruling that Uber’s mandatory arbitration process is invalid and inaccessible to drivers – paving the way for Uber drivers to be recognized as employees.

The Supreme Court case, known as Uber v. Heller, revolved around the arbitration provision contained in every Uber Service Agreement that the company enters with drivers and which drivers must sign before being able to work for Uber using the company’s ride hailing app. Under this provision, all driver disputes with Uber are required to go through arbitration in the Netherlands, a process that the Ontario Court of Appeals said amounts to illegally outsourcing an employment standard.

In today’s historic ruling, the Supreme Court upheld the Ontario Court of Appeal decision, deeming Uber’s arbitration agreement invalid and inaccessible to drivers and stating that a driver cannot reasonably be expected to incur the financial and legal costs required to arbitrate a dispute in the Netherlands.

The ruling comes as a result of driver David Heller, who works for the company’s Uber Eats food delivery service, filing a class action lawsuit seeking a minimum wage, vacation pay, and benefits for drivers amounting to $400 million in damages. Heller argued that when he entered into a Service Agreement with Uber in June 2016, the company misclassified him as an independent contractor rather than an employee, and that Uber failed to abide by the minimum labour standards outlined in Ontario’s Employment Standards Act (ESA).

In a major victory for Uber drivers and ride hailing, app-based employees in Canada, today’s ruling clears the way for Heller’s lawsuit – arguing that Uber drivers are employees and are entitled to protections under employment standards legislation, including the right to join a union – to proceed, and paves a path for Uber drivers to be recognized as employees.

The ruling also comes exactly one year after hundreds of Uber Black drivers in Toronto joined UFCW Canada, calling for fair pay, respect, and the right to collectively bargain.

“This decision confirms what our union has been arguing all along – that Uber consistently prevents drivers from exercising their rights as employees of the company,” says Paul Meinema, the national president of UFCW Canada. “Uber’s completely inaccessible arbitration process is just one example of how the company regularly stifles the rights of its workers, and we are pleased that the Supreme Court has rendered this process invalid.”

“With today’s Supreme Court ruling, Uber drivers are one step closer to gaining more rights, representation, and respect on the job,” says Pablo Godoy, National Co-ordinator of Gig and Platform-Employer Initiatives for UFCW Canada. “It has been a long and grueling journey, but we are on the right trajectory for achieving justice for Uber drivers and other app-based employees in Canada.”

Since launching the Uber Drivers United campaign in 2019, UFCW has become the leading voice for ride hailing drivers in Canada, signing up hundreds of Uber Black drivers in Toronto and spearheading organizing efforts in British Columbia, as well as other parts of the country. To learn more about the campaign to bring justice and fairness to Uber and other ride hailing drivers, visit UFCW’s Uber Drivers United website.

UFCW Canada represents more than 250,000 union members across the country working in food retail and processing, transportation, health, logistics, warehousing, agriculture, hospitality, manufacturing, and the security and professional sectors. UFCW is the country's most innovative organization dedicated to building fairness in workplaces and communities. UFCW Canada members are your neighbours who work at your local grocery stores, hotels, airport food courts, taxi firms, car rental agencies, nursing homes, restaurants, food processing plants, and thousands of other locations across the country. To find out more about UFCW and its ground-breaking work, visit www.ufcw.ca.

Pablo Godoy
National Coordinator, Gig and Platform-Employer Initiatives
UFCW Canada