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Toronto Uber drivers opt to unionize for better pay, working conditions

WATCH: Hundreds of GTA Uber drivers have unionized. Union officials say the move was necessary because drivers need better working conditions and better pay.

Hundreds of Toronto Uber drivers have joined a union in an effort to gain better pay and working conditions.

The United Food and Commercial Workers union (UFCW Canada) announced at a Wednesday news conference it had signed up the drivers.

In addition to calling for better pay, the union highlighted the drivers’ lack of paid sick days, vacation and extended health coverage.

READ MORE: ‘What other industry would allow that?’: What it’s like to work for service apps

“Really what we’re asking for at its core is basic respect, basic fair treatment, and just the ability for drivers to be able to keep making a living without being subject to unfair practices,” said Pablo Godoy, who is the national coordinator for gig and platform-employer initiatives for UFCW Canada.

According to Godoy, many drivers are contract workers in name only and are effectively employees.

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WATCH: (May 8, 2019) Protesting Uber and Lyft drivers take to the streets in NYC

Protesting Uber and Lyft drivers take to the streets in NYC
Protesting Uber and Lyft drivers take to the streets in NYC

He said while technological innovation is a positive change, there are downsides.

“There’s been this boom of platform-based employers that are able to circumvent traditional labour laws, laws that have been in place over decades that were meant to protect workers’ basic rights in the workplace,” Godoy said. “And simply at the push of a button, some of these rights have simply disappeared.”

Ejaz Butt has driven for Uber for seven years. While he plans to continue the work, he would like to see changes — and is encouraging his colleagues to sign up for the union.

“[Uber has] to recognize that drivers [are] the main key who serve the customer properly,” Butt said.

Global News contacted Uber for comment but did not receive a response.

READ MORE: Ridesharing partly to blame for Toronto traffic congestion: report

The union plans to formally reach out to Uber to set up a meeting. It also intends to hold discussions with all levels of government to encourage new regulations that catch up to ride-sharing technology.

In recent days, some Lyft drivers have also expressed interest in joining, the union said.