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Toronto ride-hail drivers to strike in wake of making just $6.37 an hour, new report finds

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Your ride-hailing driver could be getting paid just $6.37 an hour, a fraction of Ontario’s minimum wage, according to a new report that calls for legislated changes to stop gig workers from sliding further into poverty.

Failing to pay minimum wages to Toronto drivers is translating into huge windfalls for app companies, who are profiting to the tune of $200 million a year, the report called, “Legislated Poverty,” by advocacy organization Ridefair, outlines.

Drivers from Toronto, Winnipeg and Vancouver tell CTV News they are going on strike on Valentine’s Day along with drivers in dozens of U.S. states and European countries who work on platforms including Uber, Lyft and food delivery app Doordash.

“People can’t survive on this kind of thing,” said Earla Phillips, a ride-hail driver and vice-president of the Rideshare Drivers Association of Ontario, who said the study collected information directly from drivers using screenshots of their earnings.

“How do you pay your bills with that kind of money? You don’t,” Phillips said.

One major employer, Uber, rejected the figure and pointed to its own figures that indicated a higher earning for its drivers.

“Cherry picking 96 weekly earnings statements from tens of millions of trips is shoddy methodology. In November, median earnings were $33.35 for engaged time in the City of Toronto,” said spokesperson Keerthana Rang.

The Ridefair figure, $6.37 per hour, was a median, meaning that half the drivers actually made less, and some lost money while working, said report author JJ Fueser with the Ridefair Coalition.

“Right now, Toronto drivers can and do make less,” she said.

Employees are entitled to a minimum wage under Ontario’s labour laws. However, drivers are classified as contractors, and don’t have the same protections.

That distinction is a falsehood in a job where the app decides how drivers are paired with passengers, said Brice Sopher of Gig Workers United.

“I just came from a two-hour shift where I made $5.40. I can speak from experience that we’re facing a crisis,” said Sopher.

The report's authors say their estimate is in line with others in California ($6.20 an hour), Seattle ($9.63 per hour), and Denver ($5.49 an hour).

Ride-hailing company Uber has said that Toronto drivers earned $33.35 per “engaged hour”, which is when they have a passenger, but doesn’t include when drivers are logged in and waiting for work.

That’s not a reasonable measure, said Fueser, because it doesn’t fairly represent the amount of time they are working.

“That number sounds good. In fact, it sounds roughly double the province’s minimum wage. But it’s not. It leaves out crucial information,” she said.

MPPs are discussing the issue in committee. The study authors are pushing the city to consider reinstating its cap on drivers, on the grounds that fewer drivers could mean each driver gets a greater share of the rides.

But a larger change would be to use legislation to classify the drivers as employees, they said.

Another step that will be taken this week is for drivers in several Canadian cities to go on strike, Phillips said.

Ontario’s Ministry of Labour passed the Working for Workers Act in 2022 which, when enacted, will provide protections including a minimum wage for engaged time, tip protection, and dispute resolution.

“We recognize that the way we work has been changing, and the future of work is already here. That is why our government is leading the way, with Ontario being the very first province in Canada to introduce core rights to gig workers who offer rides or deliver food for companies such as Uber and DoorDash,” said a spokesperson for Ontario’s Ministry of Labour. 

Striking drivers will gather at Nathan Phillips Square on Wednesday. The crowd will hear speakers before driving through the city.

“Toronto, Winnipeg and Vancouver drivers have had it up to here,” said organizer Earla Phillips. “This is a worldwide global protest. We’re going on strike.”

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