B.C. announces minimum wage and other labour protections for app-based gig workers

NEW WESTMINSTER, B.C. — The B.C. government is introducing new protections for ride-hailing and food delivery app workers including a minimum wage, compensation for expenses and other standards.

A minimum hourly wage of $20.10 — which is $3.35 more than the current general minimum wage — would apply for a gig worker's "engaged time," beginning when they accept an assignment to the time of completion.

Labour Minister Harry Bains said Thursday that the new rules will also require ride-hail and food deliver platform companies to "clarify" the amounts drivers will earn on each assignment they accept.

Bains said the "pay transparency" measure will allow drivers to know how much they'll earn for each trip before deciding whether to accept an assignment.

The new pay standard, which doesn't include tips, puts a 20 per cent premium on top of the general minimum wage to account for the time gig workers spend waiting for assignments.

Bains said the new regulations will giver drivers coverage under WorkSafeBC, prohibit platform companies from withholding tips, and establish compensation standards for costs such as using a personal vehicle.

The new rules, which will require new legislation to implement, are the result of consultation with app-based workers, platform companies, labour groups and business associations.

Bains said gig workers value flexibility, but deserve to be treated fairly, and the new regulations "balance the needs of workers while supporting the continuation of these services that so many of us have (become) accustomed to rely on."

He said legislation on the standards will be introduced in the coming days, and he expects the regulations to be finalized early next year.

Veronique Sioufi, a researcher with the Canadian Centre of Policy Alternatives, said in an interview that the new rules are a "step in the right direction," but don't go far enough.

"The Ministry of Labour calling these workers employees, that's pretty groundbreaking for Canada," she said.

Sioufi said the new rules in B.C. carve out an "exception" for app-based delivery drivers, which is neither fair nor equal "by definition."

"These companies lobby really hard against any protections for workers, against having to be held responsible as employers," she said. "What's not clear about this is whether workers are covered by workers' compensation in that time in between assignments. That's still risky time."

The B.C. Federation of Labour said in a statement that the new rules fall short because the "minimum wage coverage fails to include time spent waiting for an assignment or returning from an assignment."

President Sussanne Skidmore said the federation is also "deeply concerned" that drivers for app-based services are also being denied "key protections under the law, like paid sick leave.”

In a statement Thursday, Uber said it "is supportive of government policies that protect the flexibility and independence of app-based workers while offering benefits and protections tailored to the work they do."

The company said the wage guarantee and workers' compensation coverage is "encouraging," but the company said it "will need to review the legislation and regulations closely once available.”

DoorDash spokesman Javier Lacayo said in a statement that the company supports some of the new rules announced in B.C., but not others.

"We believe it is wrong to set a premium, higher minimum wage for just one group of workers," the company said in an emailed statement. "This change could make delivery more expensive for consumers, and that would mean much less business for restaurants and fewer earning opportunities for workers."

The statement said the company looks "forward to working with the government to get this right — for everyone.”

— By Darryl Greer in Vancouver

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 16, 2023.

The Canadian Press