British Columbia’s Labour Minister Harry Bains has proposed new regulations aimed at providing protections for gig workers, who are often classified as “independent contractors” and denied basic workplace rights. While the proposed measures mark a significant step, Unifor, Canada’s largest union in the private sector, argues that they fall short of offering full employment rights to these workers.
Unifor National President Lana Payne emphasized the need for governments to ensure better conditions for gig workers, who typically find employment through digital platforms and apps, undertaking tasks like ride-sharing, food delivery, and various freelance jobs. These workers have been historically excluded from essential workplace rights, including the ability to form unions and engage in collective bargaining.
The new regulations in British Columbia propose to include gig workers under basic employment standards, such as minimum wage and pay transparency rights. However, Unifor points out several exemptions in these regulations that continue to undermine the status of gig workers. The union advocates for full protection under the Employment Standards Act, including rights to daily minimum pay, overtime pay, and paid vacation.
Minister Bains has indicated that the government is considering additional compensation for workers using personal vehicles for work. Unifor, drawing on its experience in setting standards for owner-operator truckers under the Container Trucking Act, aims to collaborate with the government to establish high standards for gig workers.
Gavin McGarrigle, Unifor Western Regional Director, commended the B.C. government for establishing a basic level of rights for gig workers, a move yet to be made by most Canadian governments. However, he stressed the importance of ensuring these rights are not just theoretical but practical, with gig workers receiving equal representation under the law and effective means to hold employers accountable.
Unifor has previously urged governments to introduce a sector-based collective bargaining model specifically tailored for gig workers. This approach would empower workers to negotiate robust industry standards and effectively resolve workplace disputes.
Representing 315,000 workers across various sectors, Unifor actively champions the rights of working people, advocating for equality, social justice, and progressive change in Canada and internationally.