UNI Global Union affiliate, the Canadian Union of Postal Workers (CUPW), scored a huge victory for gig workers last month when the Ontario Labour Relations Board ruled that foodora couriers are dependent contractors, giving them the legal right to organize and join a trade union. 

In an historic precedent, CUPW and Foodsters United, successfully argued that the courier workers were not independent contractors, as foodora claimed. When classified as independent, couriers were not allowed to join a union and foodora could avoid its employer responsibilities. 

Jan Simpson, CUPW National President, said:

“This decision shows that the tide is turning towards justice for thousands of gig workers in Ontario and soon these workers will have the right to their union. CUPW is proud to be part of challenging the big app-based employers, and reshaping the future of work in favour of workers’ rights, safety, and respect.”

The pay-per-order model at foodora, means that couriers for the meal delivery platform often receive wages lower than the minimum wage during slow periods, while having to spend thousands of dollars maintaining their bike, car or scooter. The couriers also face risk of injury and accidents on the streets of the Ontario capital, Toronto, where most work.

“The decision was not just a win, but a complete discarding of all of these platforms’ arguments that we’re our own boss, that we’re entrepreneurs taking part in the marketplace without any need for protections from these platforms. We are workers and this is hard work, not entrepreneurship,” said Iván Ostos, foodora courier.

“Now that we have been reclassified, the door for unionization is open for all gig-workers in Canada. With a foot in the door in one of the biggest platforms of the largest city in the country, it is not a matter of if, but when will others join us in the struggle for protections, respect, and a decent wage for workers in the platform economy,” continued Ostos.

The case has been keenly watched by many gig workers and unions, bringing platform-based working conditions into the spotlight, and prompting calls for better regulation and recognition of the workers’ issues and their rights.

“This victory by CUPW is a massive step forward, not just for foodora workers but all gig workers in Canada. It comes after unions in Switzerland, Austria and Norway have negotiated collective agreements with platform businesses, showing that we are making progress in getting better protections for workers in the gig economy,” said Cornelia Berger, Head of UNI Post & Logistics.