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Foodora couriers are leading an effort to join the Canadian Union of Postal Workers to negotiate with their employer for fairer pay and basic benefits.

The Justice for Foodora Couriers group says the company’s classification of its couriers as independent contractors allows it to avoid paying for basic employee benefits, such as the Canada Pension Plan and employment insurance, and means its couriers don’t have basic labour rights.

“I’ve been working for this company for three and a half years. A lot of the things we liked about the job either disappeared entirely or just got worse,” says Alexander Kurth, one of the members of the group leading the effort. “The response has been incredibly overwhelming. The vast majority of the people we talk to understand how necessary this is and will sign off immediately.”

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He says the group is waiting for the full courier workforce to democratically develop its list of demands, but having a guaranteed minimum wage is something many workers have expressed interest in.

Foodora pays couriers a flat $4.50 fee for each delivery, plus $1 for every kilometre between the restaurant and the customer’s address. “If nobody’s ordering food then we just don’t get paid,” says Kurth. “I do think some kind of safety net minimum [wage] to guarantee workers that if they don’t get enough orders they would get topped up . . . is a bare minimum any worker should have.”

Couriers have also expressed interest in being paid for the kilometres it takes them to travel to the restaurant they’re picking an order up from, as well as for the time they spend waiting in the restaurant on Foodora’s behalf.

Given the dangerous and physical nature of couriers’ work, Kurth says they’d like to have basic health benefits, such as access to physiotherapy and some drug coverage, and a better injury insurance plan.

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“It’s basically a maintenance thing. Our bodies get tired and worn out and just some health benefits that would help us stay in good shape . . . would be really helpful,” he says. “I’ve had an inflamed knee for the last year and . . . I can’t afford a physiotherapist to let me know what is going on with it and how I could treat it to help that go away.”

In an email to Benefits Canada, Foodora said it considers rider satisfaction a top priority.

“We care about the well-being of our riders, which is why we offer an inclusive [Workplace Safety and Insurance Board] (or provincial equivalent) package and have an open-door policy at our office in Toronto, where our team and fleet supervisor are always there to assist contractors where we can,” said Sadie Weinstein, a spokesperson for Foodora. “We’ve been working on a project with our global team where we’ll regularly collect feedback from new and existing riders across Canada, with the goal of maintaining a high level of satisfaction. The initiative is scheduled to roll out later this month.”

Kurth says the WSIB coverage isn’t satisfactory, because it’s difficult for couriers to use. “In the end, the payout is rarely enough for a person to live on, even if they had been working full time previously. We’re looking for a more robust injury insurance plan.”

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The group expects it could succeed in a bid for Ontario Labour Relations Board certification and is most likely planning to argue for classification as dependent contractors, says Kurth. The classification is a middle ground between independent contractors and full-time employees that would permit couriers to unionize and have the same rights and protections as employees while still allowing them some flexibility.

Copyright © 2019 Transcontinental Media G.P. Originally published on benefitscanada.com

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