Feb 1, 2024

New labour legislation to continue gig worker precarity

By and

Gig work is widely recognized as having all of the characteristics of precarious employment: typically temporary, part-time or casual, low paid, lacking in predictable work hours and job security without health and welfare benefits and protections. 

Research into precarious gig work in BC has revealed that app-based ride-hail and food delivery gig workers are predominantly racialized new immigrants who work long hours without overtime pay and without any pay while signed on waiting for trip assignments. 

The BC government has announced new legislation, Bill 48, to provide better working conditions and rights for app-based ride-hail and food-delivery gig workers. However, even with existing BC labour legislation, the central question was, and is, whether app-based workers employed by platform companies should be classified as “employees” entitled to all the rights and protections of BC labour laws. Most app-based workers do not currently have these rights and protections, which violates existing legislation. 

App-based ride-hail and food delivery gig workers are predominantly racialized new immigrants. 

In his mandate letters to the Minister of Labour and his parliamentary secretaries, Premier Eby called on them to develop a precarious work strategy and propose employment standards and other protections specifically relevant to app-based ride-hail and food delivery drivers.

Prior to introducing this legislation, the government held consultations with app-based workers, platform companies, labour organizations, business associations and others for over two years.

For years labour organizations and workers’ rights advocates called on the Ministry of Labour to investigate employment conditions in the platform company industry and to enforce applicable legislation. However, without explanation, the Ministry didn’t heed this request, acknowledging the powerlessness of workers in the industry. 

While Bill 48 recognizes online platform workers as “employees” under the Employment Standards Act (ESA) and the Workers Compensation Act, and makes provision for regulations to provide a minimum wage, employee expense compensation standards, tip protections and pay and trip transparency, these workers will not through regulatory exclusion enjoy all of the benefits and protections of workers in other sectors. These include overtime pay, statutory holidays with pay, paid sick leave and vacations. Also, these workers will not be paid for the time worked while logged on waiting to receive an assignment. 

Consequently, the Minister of Labour proposes through regulation to add app-based gig workers to the over 100 occupations that are excluded from all or some of the rights and protections contained in the ESA intended for all workers. 

 These workers will not enjoy all of the benefits and protections of workers in other sectors. 

This and previous governments have long been criticized for the numerous inequitable, discriminatory and unjustified exclusion of workers through regulation, particularly low-paid workers in precarious employment (such as farm workers and caregivers), from all of the rights and benefits of the ESA. The reality is that these regulatory exclusions contribute to the precarity of employment in a wide range of occupations, therefore the proposed exclusions of app-based platform workers from provisions of the ESA will only perpetuate the precarity of gig work, which contradicts the precarious work strategy mandate of the Ministry of Labour. 

While gig workers gain some benefits from this legislation, those engaged in precarious work will not have all the rights and benefits of the Employment Standards Act. This must end.

UP-BCThis article is part of Understanding Precarity in BC (UP-BC), a research and public engagement initiative investigating precarious work and multi-dimensional precarity in British Columbia. UP-BC is jointly led by Simon Fraser University’s Morgan Centre for Labour Research and the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives BC Office, and brings together four BC universities, 26 community-based organizations and more than 80 academic and community researchers and collaborators. The partnership is supported by the Social Science and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC). For more information about UP-BC visit understandingprecarity.ca.

Topics: ,