New legislation is being introduced to provide employee benefits to gig workers.
Currently gig workers are classified as contractors. As a result, they are not entitled to the benefits and basic protections of being an employee. They are not provided with unemployment and medical insurance, pension provisions, a fair minimum wage and the right to unionise.
In response to mounting pressure from ride-hailing drivers, countries around the world are starting to legislate the protection of these gig workers. Ride-hailing drivers, food-delivery couriers, janitors, nail salon workers, construction workers and franchise owners could now all be reclassified as employees.
In September last year, California legislators approved a landmark bill that requires companies like Uber and Lyft to treat contract workers as employees. According to the bill, workers must be designated as employees instead of contractors if a company exerts control over how they perform their tasks or if their work is part of a company’s regular business.
New York City has passed a minimum wage for ride-hailing drivers in 2018 and is yet to classify them as employees. In Canada, Uber drivers have just applied for unionisation. “We have already tried every possible avenue to meet with Uber to discuss our demands, but the company has ignored us. Unionization is the only way to protect our jobs and our livelihoods,” says Ejaz Butt, a leading organizer among the Uber Black drivers.
“Around the world, ride-sharing and gig-economy workers are standing up for their rights and winning significant gains,” says Pablo Godoy, Western Regional Director for UFCW Canada and National Coordinator for Gig and Platform-Employer Initiatives. Since September last year, the controversial Californian bill, AB5, has been met with resistance from certain groups of independent contractors, who believe that the bill is detrimental to their livelihoods. As a result, the bill may be temporarily suspended and modified to address its shortcomings. However, the trend of protecting gig workers will continue to influence policymakers around the world, as worker grievances continue to gain momentum. It is the era where power has shifted from the corporations to the workers. Disregarding human rights in favour of the bottom line will no longer go unnoticed and unchallenged.
Companies who employ such contract workers should take heed. The business landscape is changing. Best you look after your workers.
By Faeeza Khan