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Canada’s top court rules in favor of Uber driver in gig economy case

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OTTAWA (Reuters) – Canada’s Supreme Court on Friday ruled in favor of a driver in a gig economy case that paves the way for a class action suit calling for Uber Technologies Inc to recognize drivers in Canada as company employees.

FILE PHOTO: An Uber sticker is seen on driver Margaret Bordelon’s car in Lafayette, Louisiana, U.S. February 16, 2020. REUTERS/Callaghan O’Hare/File Photo

UberEats driver David Heller had filed a class action suit, challenged by Uber, aiming to secure a minimum wage, vacation pay and other benefits like overtime pay. Drivers are now classified as independent contractors and do not have such benefits.

Heller’s attorney said the decision allowing him to sue was important, but only a small first step in a case that will probably take years to litigate.

The ride-hailing company’s contract allows arbitration, but not class-action lawsuits. After the ruling, an Uber spokeswoman said the company would amend its contracts “to align with the court’s principles”, without giving details.

“Going forward, dispute resolution will be more accessible to drivers,” the spokeswoman said in a statement.

Two days ago, California said it plans to ask a state court judge to force Uber and Lyft Inc to classify their ride-hail drivers as employees rather than contractors.

Canada’s 8-1 Supreme Court ruling dismisses an Uber appeal to an Ontario high court ruling that said the Uber’s arbitration clause violates provincial labor rules and is “invalid and unenforceable.”

The arbitration process, which must be conducted in the Netherlands where Uber has its international headquarters, costs about C$19,000 ($14,500). Heller earned between C$21,000 and C$31,000 per year.

“This was an access to justice case,” said Michael Wright, one of Heller’s lawyers. The court essentially ruled that “a stronger party was taking advantage of a weaker party in an unfair manner,” said Wright.

Now Heller can restart his class action suit, Wright said, but the matter will not be settled soon.

“This is the first round in a series of rounds,” said Wright, a labor and employment lawyer with Wright Henry LLP in Toronto, adding that it could take “a few more years.”

Uber shares were down 2.7% around noon Eastern Time.

Reporting by Steve Scherer, additional reporting by Moira Warburton; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama and David Gregorio

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Gig economy saves Australia’s jobs market, but at what cost?

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Don’t be surprised if employers use the recession to employ more casuals and outsource more work.

(Image: Adobe)

There were three messages in the confusing jobs data for August that emerged yesterday from the Australian Bureau of Statistics. The headline number was dramatically better than any economist, or even the Reserve Bank or Treasury, had predicted.

The first is, despite the claims from the media and the Morrison government that the Andrews government’s lockdown was some profound act of economic vandalism, Victoria’s jobless rate only moved up to 7.1% from 6.8%, with 42,000 jobs lost in that state last month. Hours fell by 4.8% in Victoria, compared with a 1.8% rise across the rest of Australia.

Now there may well be another big fall in Victoria in the September data as the numbers catch up. There will be a clue in the ABS’s next payroll jobs and wages data next week.



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Collaboration in the Gig Economy keynote

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September 17, 2020

Engagement managers already have a much more complex choice than in the past. It’s not just whether to hire a traditional employee to get a job done — the procurement supply chain is much larger. Today’s choices include using a staffing agency temp, engaging an independent contractor, calling in an SOW consultant or turning to an online work platform. And technology continues to bring changes — with Covid-19 speeding up the evolution.

“I would argue that times of crisis and times of change, like we are in today, will help propel the next stage of digital transformation,” SIA President Barry Asin said in a keynote address today kicking off the Collaboration in the Gig Economy virtual conference.

Asin cited technological change wrought by the last recession: In 2007, only 24% of large companies had a VMS in place; by 2010, the percentage had grown to 64%.

Fast forward to today, there was $1 billion in venture capital funding focused on the HR tech space in the second quarter alone.

Large companies that use staffing are turning to tech more and more. SIA data found 43% of large staffing buyers foresee an increase in usage of online staffing/talent pool in the next 10 years. Evolving concepts such as direct sourcing are already used by 30% of buyers, and 49% plan to put a direct-sourcing program in place within the next two years; much of it fueled by new tech offerings.

“I think that what we’re seeing — particularly for the traditional service providers in the talent supply chain — is a real digital transformation, and the current crisis is accelerating that digital transformation,” Asin said. “And it’s accelerating it for all the players involved at the different points of that supply chain.”

Already, 54 million Americans did gig work in 2019, approximately 34% of the workforce, according to SIA data. That amounts to $1.3 trillion in spend with the largest share going to independent contractors. SIA defines the gig economy as including all types of contingent work, encompassing

  • staffing agency temporary workers
  • SOW consultants
  • directly hired temporaries
  • online platform workers
  • independent contractors

The Collaboration in the Gig Economy Conference brings together all parts of the ecosystem to talk the latest trends and advances. Attendees include enterprise buyers, staffing suppliers, VMS/MSP companies, human cloud/on demand platforms and technology solutions providers.

“There is a wave and a transformational change that we are seeing in society,” Asin said. “Many of you are on the leading edge of that change.”

The virtual event continues through tomorrow.

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Australia – Victorian government launches consultation for feedback on its gig economy report

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17 September 2020

The Victorian government inviting Victorians to make submissions about all or some of the recommendations into its report on the gig economy.

The Victorian Government first commissioned its ‘Inquiry into the Victorian On-Demand Workforce’ in September 2018 in response to concerns about the wages and conditions of workers in the on-demand or ‘gig economy’.

The Inquiry, which was chaired by former Fair Work Ombudsman Natalie James, completed its investigations and submitted a report to Government. The report was published in July 2020.

The two-year investigation found that online platforms such as Uber and Deliveroo in Victoria have deliberately framed their arrangements with workers to avoid regulation while other businesses carry the cost of complying with workplace laws.

While some appreciated the flexibility on-demand work provides, James found the uncertain status of workers, who are not classified as employees and therefore do not qualify for workplace entitlements, protections and obligations, was at the heart of the system’s failures of workers.

The report made 20 recommendations for both the federal and state governments aimed at improving protections for on-demand workers.

The Victorian government stated on its site that all submissions will be treated in confidence to allow people to ‘frankly share their views’. The Victorian Government added that it will consider all feedback received before responding to the Inquiry’s Report.

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