Ford government announces $15 minimum wage for gig economy workers
Published Monday, February 28, 2022 5:08AM EST
Last Updated Monday, February 28, 2022 3:38PM EST
The Ontario government is set to introduce new legislation Monday that will give app-based gig workers “fundamental rights,” including a $15 minimum wage and transparency when it comes to their tips.
The “Digital Platform Workers’ Rights Act” will guarantee a regular minimum wage for individuals employed by app-based services, such as ride-share drivers and couriers, which they will receive on top of their tips. It also makes it mandatory for workers to receive a recurring pay period and pay day while prohibiting tips from being withheld by platform operators.
“We continue to hear stories that, you know, one week a gig worker will make $1,400 and the next week they'll make $500, and they don't know why,” Ontario Labour Minister Monte McNaughton told CTV News Toronto.
“So we're going to bring forward a transparency, so workers know exactly how the algorithm works and how they're going to be paid.”
McNaughton said he has heard from some workers who are making less than $5 an hour and he called that situation “unacceptable.”
“Every worker in the province deserves to earn at least minimum wage, and these companies have a responsibility—and they're going to be forced by law—to clearly tell workers on digital platforms how and when they're going to be paid.”
The legislation also includes the right for work-related disputes to be resolved in Ontario. According to McNaughton, many employees are forced to travel outside of Canada in order to address a workplace dispute, something that is not always affordable.
“It is clearly unacceptable that these injustices are happening in Ontario, and in Canada quite frankly,” he said. “No gig worker should earn less than minimum wage. No gig worker should be fired without notice or explanation. And no one, period, should have to travel out of Canada to have a workplace dispute resolved. That's why we're taking action.”
The Progressive Conservative government increased the minimum wage in Ontario to $15 an hour in January, choosing to also include liquor servers who were previously making $12.55 per hour.
Gig workers were not included in that legislation.
McNaughton acknowledged that government “often lags behind economic changes,” adding that the Progressive Conservatives moved quickly to address recommendations being made by the Ontario Workforce Recovery Advisory Committee.
The committee suggested a new class of employee be created to cover workers employed by platform-based services, allowing them access to basic rights such as a minimum wage, benefits and severance.
While the new legislation proposed Monday addresses the issue of a consistent minimum wage as well as issues of transparency when it comes to the workplace, it doesn’t mention a portable benefits package, something the Progressive Conservative government has said could come after the provincial June election.
McNaughton previously told CTV News Toronto an advisory panel will be appointed in March and the final recommendations will be made in July.
Ontario Premier Doug Ford originally scrapped a $15 minimum wage in 2018 after taking office, arguing that it would be too expensive for businesses. When he announced the minimum wage would increase by $1 in November 2021, the premier cited the pandemic as the main reason why the wage freeze would come to an end.
“Everyone's been facing a challenge over the last 20 months,” he said at the time. “Things were a lot different back in 2018.”
Speaking to reporters late Monday morning, Ford reiterated that times have changed and he is a strong believer in putting money back in people’s pockets.
“We’ve seen huge shifts around traditional labour markets,” he said. “ And as we build a resilient economy, our government must keep pace with these changes.”
“Protecting our digital platform workforce is more than just making sure that our labour laws stay up to date. It’s about achieving our promise to make Ontario the best place anywhere to live, work and raise a family.”
Ride-share apps appear to be on board with the proposal, saying their drivers deserve protections and that the Ontario legislation is a good “starting point.”
In a statement, Lyft said that “drivers deserve benefits and protections while also maintaining their flexibility to earn when, where and for however long they want.”
“This proposal seems to offer a good starting point in that conversation, and we look forward to continuing to engage with all stakeholders on the issue."
Uber, meanwhile, has been pushing for a much higher minimum wage of $18 and say that while they would like to provide their drivers with benefits, they cannot do so without regional legislation to support it.
A spokesperson also said in a statement that Uber’s platform already provides drivers with transparency regarding how their earnings are calculated.