Former Foodora workers receive closure with $3.46-million settlement

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Foodora worker and organizer Ivan Ostos. ​Image: Tess Siksay​

After a long and complex organizing process, after which their employer was accused of union busting when it abruptly pulled its operations out of Canada entirely, Foodora workers received a $3.46-million settlement on Tuesday. 

The settlement was paid "in light of" Foodora's exit from the Canadian market, according to a Tuesday press release from Delivery Hero, Foodora's parent company. The settlement will resolve the claims lodged by the Canadian Union of Postal Workers to the Ontario Labour Relations Board against Foodora Canada for that action.

When Foodora announced its departure from Canada, CUPW called the move "a cruel act by a multinational corporation in the middle of a pandemic," and on April 29, lodged an unfair labour practices complaint with the board, accusing Foodora of union busting. 

In February of this year, the Ontario labour board ruled in favour of Foodora workers when it decided Foodora had misclassified them as independent contractors when they were in fact employees (dependent contractors). This granted the workers the right to form a union, but Foodora announced its departure before the union could be certified.

The settlement will be distributed to Foodora workers across Canada, even though the Ontario labour board decision only affected workers in Ontario. 

Thomas McKechnie, a former Foodora courier and Foodsters union organizer, said the amount going to each worker was based on how much they worked for Foodora in the three months leading up to the company's announcement of its departure.

The average amount earned over those three months was then extrapolated to a four month period -- the amount of time it's been since Foodora's announcement. Workers were compensated for those four months plus an additional four per cent, which McKechnie said was the union's best estimate for what workers would have been paid had they been accruing vacation pay, something they likely would have eventually received had Foodora recognized their status as employees. 

McKechnie said workers should receive their settlement payment through Foodora's traditional method of payment beginning Tuesday, but said it could take up to a week for the 2,000 plus eligible workers to receive the paid out.

McKechnie is receiving about $1,000, he said, something that will help with his tuition payments as he begins his first year at Ryerson University. McKechnie has been a food courier for five years now, and continues to deliver for other apps, as well as doing private deliveries for his neighbours who are unable to leave their homes during the COVID-19 pandemic.

"I don't think you can effectively put a price tag on the experience of Foodora workers over the last couple of months," McKechnie said, adding he is glad workers were able to get some sort of compensation, and views the settlement as a win for gig workers. 

Brice Sopher, another former Foodora courier and Foodsters organizer, said he won't be receiving much money from Foodora by way of the settlement, but he's still grateful for what it represents. 

"The symbolism of that money I think goes a certain distance in normalizing gig work as a normal form of work that should get the same protections and rights as other workers," he said.

No amount of money could ever make him feel good about the way things ended with Foodora, but he did get a sense of closure from the Foodster's chapter with Foodora. 

That chapter may have ended, but Foodsters United still has big plans, and CUPW plans to continue representing them. 

"We will continue to fight for their rights, whether it is through the negotiation of this settlement or through collective bargaining with a new employer. We are in this together," said CUPW president Jan Simpson in a press release

Foodster organizer and former Foodora worker Jennifer Scott said she was excited about Foodster's future and the community that was built as a result of the organizing they did. 

McKechnie said the union organizers have many different plans, including the creation of a courier co-operative owned by workers, but what he's most excited for is organizing other areas of the gig economy. 

"I think gig workers [are a group] by which you can do deep, meaningful, radical organizing," he said. 

"We're not done here."

Chelsea Nash is rabble's labour beat reporter for 2020. To contact her with story leads, email chelsea[at]rabble.ca.

Image: Tess Siksay​

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