One of B.C.'s oldest and largest unions is supporting Uber drivers who claim they were fired for refusing unsafe work.
UFCW 1518, the United Food and Commercial Workers' International Union, is taking the cases of several Uber drivers to the BC Labour Relations Board. They've filed an unfair labour practice complaint against giant tech corporation Uber, according to a news release.
For the drivers who were fired the ride-hailing service was the primary source of income. They had also been working for the company for several months without any other incidents before being fired. In fact, one of the drivers had "1,000 five-star reviews on his account."
In one of the cases, an Uber driver said a customer threatened to lodge a complaint and became violent when the driver asked her to wear a mask. The driver phoned the police who had to remove the customer from the vehicle.
In another incident, a driver refused "to take four passengers in his vehicle as this violated Uber’s explicit COVID-19 safety regulations. The driver believes that the customer who ordered the trip retaliated against him by leaving a bad review and rating."
In addition to COVID-19 safety regulations, drivers reported having to deal with intoxicated customers who were "rude, demanding and insulting." When they asked the customers to tone down their behaviour, the riders said they would "lodge a formal complaint against the drivers."
Following these complaints, the drivers discovered that the Uber app was deactivated from their phones. The apps were deleted from drivers who otherwise had "strong driving records and high customer ratings and reviews."
When they attempted to reach Uber support, the drivers claim that the team did not follow up on requests.
“I bought a new car, borrowed money from my friend and planned to start studying for my future, but my livelihood was stolen from me,” explained driver Bhupinder Singh. “It affected my mental health. I was a top star rating driver and completed more than 2,000 trips and with two false and angry customer accusations, Uber deactivated my account without proper investigation.”
If the Labour Relations Board rules in favour of the UFCW 1518 complaint, the drivers could be reinstated and compensated for the unfair firings.
The union is also seeking changes to the Employment Standards Act to enable app-based contract workers like Uber drivers to join a union.
A spokesperson from Uber Canada told Vancouver Is Awesome that the company has just received the complaint and is reviewing it. “We want every experience on the Uber platform to feel safe, respectful, and positive and we’ve developed our policies with this in mind.”
Uber Canada adds that people don't lose access to driver or delivery accounts often. "When it does, we know it can be very stressful and frustrating. That’s why our case review process is human-led. While data and technology are useful tools for improving the safety of the Uber platform, people will always play a role in helping to ensure that drivers and delivery people are treated fairly.
"The most common reasons why a driver or delivery person might lose access to their account are an expired document or an issue with their background check. Others are usually due to safety issues, fraud, discrimination by the driver or delivery person, or persistently low ratings from riders or Uber Eats users."
UFCW Local 1518 represents more than 26,000 union members working in the community health, hospitality, retail, grocery, industrial, and professional sectors across British Columbia.