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Toronto ride-share, food delivery drivers strike, calling for more fair pay, better work conditions

Dozens of ride-share and food delivery drivers in Toronto staged a strike Wednesday, calling for more fair pay and better treatment after a recent report found that what some drivers make falls well below Ontario's minimum wage.

Recent report found Toronto drivers can make as little as $6 an hour; Uber calls methodology 'shoddy'

Man with megaphone speaks to protesters.

Dozens of ride-share and food delivery drivers in Toronto staged a strike Wednesday, calling for more fair pay and better treatment after a recent report found that what some drivers make falls well below Ontario's minimum wage.

In a joint report published Monday, Ridefair Toronto and the Rideshare Drivers Association of Ontario (RDAO) said some drivers are making far less Uber's claim of $33.35 per engaged hour, which refers only to time when a rider is in a car, according to late 2023 figures. Some drivers and advocates say Uber and Lyft present massively misleading data about driver pay.

The report claims some drivers on ride-hailing apps such as Uber or Lyft, make from $6.37 to $10.60 US per hour after estimated operating expenses and not including tips, based on data collected from the paystubs. The research examined 96 examples of weekly paystubs from Toronto drivers — a small fraction of the more than 50,000 drivers licensed operators in the city — saying all of them failed to meet the province's minimum wage standards.

"Our findings for Toronto align with recent estimates of driver hourly earnings in California (US$6.20/hr), Seattle (US$9.63/hr) and Denver (US$5.49/hr), as well as reports from Toronto ride-hail drivers," said JJ Fueser, co-author of the report and researcher with Ridefair Toronto, an advocacy group that calls for fair regulation of the ride-hailing industry,

"After expenses, none of the 96 weekly paystubs provided to us by the Rideshare Drivers Association of Ontario reached Ontario's minimum wage standards; in many cases, drivers lost money," Fueser added.

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Earla Phillips is the vice president of the Ride Share Drivers Association, and a longtime driver for Uber and Lyft.

Uber denies the earnings reported, saying the methodology is problematic.

"Cherrypicking 96 weekly earnings statements from tens of millions of trips is shoddy methodology," said Keerthana Rang, a spokesperson for Uber Canada, in an email to CBC News.

"In November, median earnings were $33.35 for engaged time in the city of Toronto."

CBC News has reached out to Lyft for comment.

Proposed minimum wage standard 'changes nothing': advocates

The report also looked at Uber's policy proposal for Ontario's provincial government – a separate minimum wage standard for gig workers set at 120 per cent.

Ridefair Toronto says the report "exposes Uber's poverty pay in Toronto," adding that the proposed policy for Ontario is a "poverty trap" rather than a gig work solution.

The ride-share company proposed to pay 120 per cent of Ontario's $16.55 minimum wage for engaged time, or about $19.86 per engaged hour.

The report says taking typical engagement rates at about 60 per cent and costs for Toronto drivers into account, Uber's proposal would translate into an average hourly minimum wage of $2.50.

"It sounds attractive but changes nothing: by failing to account for the cost of driving or engagement rates, this policy leaves gig workers without a wage floor at all," it said.

"At current engagement rates, Uber's 120 per cent model works out to an average of $11.92 per hour before expenses," Fueser said in a news release Monday. "Once you consider costs, that translates at best to $2.50, and nothing stops earnings from dropping below that level."

Earlier this month, Lyft said it began guaranteeing that drivers will make at least 70 per cent of their fares each week, and that it is laying out its fees more clearly for drivers in a new earnings statement, in a bid to lure more drivers.

"We are constantly working to improve the driver experience," Lyft said in a statement to the Associated Press. Lyft said its U.S. drivers make an average of $30.68 US per hour, or $23.46 per hour after expenses

WATCH | Earnings examined paint 'bleak picture,' rideshare association says:

Toronto ride-hailing and food delivery drivers strike for better pay, working conditions

16 hours ago

Duration 2:12

Some local drivers with companies like Uber, Lyft and DoorDash are striking Wednesday to call for higher wages. In a statement, Uber said the “vast majority of drivers are satisfied,” but drivers told CBC Toronto many of them are being paid less than $10 an hour.

Minimum wage laws exist to protect everyone regardless of the work they do, said Earla Phillips, vice-president of the Rideshare Drivers Association of Ontario, adding that gig workers are "falling through the cracks."

"Toronto is already known to be a very expensive place to live and I'm sorry, below minimum wage for city-regulated workers is unacceptable," she said at a Wednesday protest at Toronto's Nathan Phillips Square.

"When we ask what proportion of gig workers make below the province's hourly minimum wage for all time worked, including expenses, that number should be zero."

Demonstrations in Toronto, Vancouver and across U.S.

Demonstrations took place across Canada from Toronto to Vancouver and Winnipeg all on Wednesday. Uber however saw no impact to its operations from the strike Wednesday, Rang said.

The company said it monitored the demonstrations throughout the day and claims that the number of drivers that completed a trip Wednesday so far is the same as the number of drivers from the same day last week.

"These types of events have rarely had an impact on trips, prices, or driver availability," she said. "That's because the vast majority of drivers are satisfied — earnings remain strong. We also continue to act on driver feedback, adding new safety features to the app and making several improvements like upfront fare and destination information."

But some drivers taking part in the protest said the hourly work is simply unaffordable.

As an Uber Eats driver in Toronto, Muhammad Musharaf Hossen said he makes just $3 in total across three deliveries requiring 10 to 20 kilometres of driving.

"It's really, really tough for surviving," he told CBC News, adding that the job requires out-of-pocket costs for insurance, gas and car loan payments. "I'm doing this part-time, but I can't afford it right now."

A man wearing a hat and a light jacket stands outside.

Musharaf Hossen has been driving for two years — and he says he might call it quits soon. He said he was striking so that other newcomers who do gig work for ride-hailing and delivery companies, like Uber or Lyft, will get better pay.

"They're not thinking about us," he said of the companies. "Like, three dollars [for] three or four orders. So I don't think that they're thinking about us, how we are surviving."

Muhammad Kamran, another Uber driver who has been with the company for nearly nine years, was at the Toronto protest.

"It's been very sad to see people spending more time than earnings like myself," Kamran told CBC Radio's Metro Morning, adding that drivers need more protection given the challenges they face.

Strikes come as Uber sees shares hit record-high

Prior to Wednesday's staged walkouts, earlier calls for a strike have spilled outside of Canada as well, with food delivery workers in the U.S. and U.K. also threatening walkouts.

Workers say the ride-hailing and food delivery platforms are taking disproportionate sums from their fares as fees, hurting their earnings. The protests comes as Uber, the largest ride-share company, saw its shares hit a record high after announcing a $7 billion share buyback in U.S. dollars.

FILE PHOTO: Uber and Lyft signs are seen on a car in Redondo Beach, California, U.S., March 25, 2019.

Uber's cash flow rose to $3.4 billion US in 2023, up from $390 million US a year earlier. Shares of Lyft were up 32 per cent on Wednesday after its earnings, which surpassed Wall Street's expectations.

Uber said its U.S. drivers make an average of $33 per hour. The company also said it allows drivers to dispute deactivations.

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