The war between Uber and its drivers that we have discussed numerous times has finally arrived in Canada. Uber Technologies Inc. faces a proposed class-action lawsuit from drivers who want to be recognized as employees and not contracted freelancers.
Uber does not employ its drivers, but merely provides the platform for them to engage with customers. This approach means the company avoids numerous employee benefits and can save hundreds of millions of dollars per year.
However, drivers started to strike back around the world in 2016. Numerous class-action suits arose in the United States and Europe. Uber, for the most part, has been forced to settle these cases by making some concessions that give drivers more rights. It is a compromise to avoid paying more and having to place proper employee benefits.
It is clear a war between Uber and its drivers is imminent. The company is exploring autonomous tech and ideally in the future Uber would like to remove drivers entirely. That prospect is decades away however, and in the meantime the company must contend with legal action.
The suit in Canada has been filed by Toronto-based Samfiru Tumarkin LLP. A judge needs to approve the action before it can proceed. The lawsuit is seeking $200 million in damages for drivers operating for Uber in Ontario since 2012. If this action is passed, it could pave the way for similar suits in other provinces.
Uber spokeswoman Susie Heath said the flexibility offered by the contractor classification is part of the company’s appeal.
“We are proud to offer flexible earnings opportunities for our partners, and drivers regularly tell us that they value and prefer the flexibility and control that comes with being their own boss,” Heath said in an email. “Thousands of Ontarians have already partnered with Uber in large part because of the independence and flexibility our service provides.”
“The duties performed by the class members and the supervision and control imposed on the class members by Uber creates an employment relationship with Uber,” according to the proposed Ontario lawsuit.