The only surprise is that anyone is surprised.
Workers, organizers and spokespersons in the gig economy are disgusted with Ontario’s Bill 88, and justifiably so. The bill passed third reading on April 7th and once proclaimed, it will codify and enshrine an ugly idea: that some workers deserve minimum wage for every hour worked, and others only deserve minimum wage minutes, or even minimum wage seconds.
These unfortunate folks are left counting the number of minutes worked and when they get 60 of them, they are entitled to Ontario’s minimum wage. The fact that it could take them several hours to accumulate these 60 qualifying minutes is not Ontario’s concern.
This compensation slight of hand is great news for gig corporations and brutally bad news for gig workers. In fact, while Bill 88 was presented as “Working to protect workers,” it did not actually define the word “work.” What it will do, however, is enable the creation of a whole new class of Ontarians: the underclass. A government employee between phone calls gets paid even when the phone doesn’t ring; a rideshare driver waiting for a fare will not.
It’s unfair, it’s outrageous, and it’s discriminatory. The one thing it is not, however, is surprising: one of Uber’s key contractors is now a major player in the Doug Ford government, while Uber hired a past president of the Ontario Progressive Conservative party as a lobbyist.
What did we expect?
The spectacle of politicians and lobbyists united against the citizenry is unethical and clearly improper, says Duff Conacher of Democracy Watch. (It’s also a hallmark of Fascism.)
When Uber came to Canada and was allowed to ignore Canadian laws with impunity, riders enjoying cheap fares and drivers enjoying a flexible new way to boost incomes were too delighted in the moment to pause and look at the larger, long-term implications of the trend.
But when the same governments that were happy to first ignore and then re-write laws around commercial driving, consumer safety, insurance, and taxation decide to ignore and then re-write laws concerning labour protection, we can’t be surprised.