Foodora couriers moving to form union with CUPW, citing pay and safety concerns

Foodora courier Ivan Astos

Citing financial and safety concerns, Foodora couriers in Toronto are partnering with the Canadian Union of Postal Workers in an effort to form a union. 

CUPW National Representative Aaron Spires said they are consulting with other couriers of different companies before they launch a certification bid with the Ontario Labour Board. 

"At that point, I'm sure that there will be legal challenges that we have to face," Spires said, specifically around the fight to be classified as employees, as opposed to the current status of independent contractors. 

"We have all confidence that the Ontario Labour Board will deem these workers either as employees or dependent contractors." 

In a statement, Foodora did not address the issue of the workers looking to unionize, but did say they care about the well-being of its drivers, provide a WSIB package and open-door policy. 

"We're proud that the average earnings across the country in March were a competitive rate of $21/hr. 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 statement said, adding a new initiative is coming in the fall.

But various riders disputed the funding model as unsustainable and inconsistent with inflation, as Foodora charges 30 per cent per order to restaurants, while paying 1 km per km of travel for each courier, while they also receive $4.50 from customers. 

One courier, a Syrian refugee named Ahmad, said couriers can go hours without an order.

"You may not find available slots to work, that's what made me join three companies at the same time," he said. "That's what many couriers are doing." 

Another courier, Hunter Sanassian, points out he's expected to take care of his own bike maintenance, cell phone data plan and travel. 

He adds car drivers also have to pay for parking tickets, gas and maintenance. 

"I'm broke," he said. "I work my tail off and despite my diligent financial habits, I can barely put any savings aside at the end of the month." 

But along with minimum wage, the couriers goal of health benefits is arguably more important considering they have to ride in all conditions of Toronto weather and traffic. 

When it comes to the WSIB package, courier Ivan Astos had a first-hand experience when he fractured his elbow in a crash in September. 

"They asked if I could complete the delivery, when I said I wouldn't, they put the onus on me to coordinate with another courier who I didn't know, for him to come, pick up the food and complete the delivery, they did not even tell this person that I was injured," he said. 

The couriers say they recognize the riding hazards of the job. 

"Regardless of knowing it's a dangerous job, everyone deserves safety," Astos said. "I really don't think this is a big ask." 

"I really don't think it's fair that I'm the only job where people expect to get hurt and have the onus put on them."

Spires said the same applies to looking for minimum wage. 

"A courier would be signing a contract regardless to make sure that they can pay their bills," he said. 

Spires acknowledges however there have been discussions about the impact the move could have on delivery costs, saying this could result on prices to customers going up. 

But he argues that Foodora is well-positioned for such a change, considering the profitable market of Toronto. 

"Workers trying to make sure that they can afford to live shouldn't be the ones that are scapegoated for a company's decision to try and charge customers more."