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Richmond-based Uber drivers fired for following app's own rules

The UFCW 1518 union has filed a complaint to the Labour Relations Board on behalf of the three drivers, claiming they were "deactivated" following spurious customer complaints
(via Ryan Remiorz/Canadian Press)

Three Uber drivers primarily based out of Richmond at YVR are at the centre of an unfair labour practice complaint filed against the ride-hailing app.

The drivers, according to union UFCW 1518, had thousands of five-star reviews on their accounts but were unjustly fired by Uber after a small number of spurious complaints by passengers, some of whom refused to follow the app’s own COVID-19 safety rules.

Earlier this week, the union filed a complaint to the Labour Relations Board (LRB), claiming that the drivers – who don’t yet have union representation - were fired after refusing unsafe work, including having to deal with customers refusing to wear a mask and then having to call the police when the passengers became violent.

In another incident, a driver refused to take four passengers in his vehicle as this violated Uber's explicit COVID-19 safety regulations.

The driver believes the customer who ordered the trip retaliated against him by leaving a bad review and rating.

According to the complaint filed with the LRB, Uber failed to investigate any of the allegations made by customers and ultimately “deactivated” the drivers’ accounts without contacting them to ask their side.

“I bought a new car, borrowed money from my friend and planned to start studying for my future, but my livelihood was stolen from me," said one of the drivers, Bhupinder Singh.

"It affected my mental health. I was a top star rating driver and completed more than 2,000 trips and with two false and angry customer accusations, Uber deactivated my account without proper investigation.”

If the LRB rules in favour of the union’s complaint, the drivers could be reinstated and compensated for the unfair firings.

Raunaq Singh, union organizer, said the drivers were simply doing their best to follow Uber’s own rules.

“Every time we contact Uber it gets passed along and nobody seems to want to deal with it,” Singh told the Richmond News.

“It wasn’t just the COVID rules being broken, there were other scenarios with intoxicated people opening cans of beer and being asked to stop drinking.

“The customer gets aggressive and then files a false complaint. Uber doesn’t investigate it. They just send a warning and then deactivate the driver’s account. It’s the algorithm that’s the boss.”

The union is also seeking changes to the Employment Standards Act to enable app-based contract workers like Uber drivers to join a union and receive other basic protections.

UFCW 1518 has been working with Uber drivers and other workers in the gig economy to fight for more fairness, better wages, and safer conditions for precarious workers.

The News reached out to Uber for comment but have yet to hear back.