Union files complaint after three B.C. Uber drivers allegedly fired for refusing unsafe work

The Uber logo is seen in this file photo. David Niviere / ABACAPRESS.COM

Three former Uber drivers in B.C. allege they were fired for refusing unsafe work, some of which was related to enforcing pandemic public health measures.

Puneet Kumar, Parminder Singh Kullar and Bhupinder Singh say the Uber app disappeared from their phones after customers gave them unwarranted bad reviews and ratings.

“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 Singh in a press statement released by UFCW 1518.

“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.”

On Oct. 6, UFCW 1518 filed an unfair labour practices complaint to the B.C. Labour Relations Board on behalf of the drivers, for whom Uber was a chief source of income.

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The union said in one case, a driver called police to remove a violent passenger who refused to wear a face mask. In another, a driver refused to take four passengers, which would have violated Uber’s COVID-19 safety protocols.

“They attempted to reach Uber support to dispute the complaints but were unable to learn more or tell their side of the story,” reads UFCW 1518’s press statement.

“Uber support did not follow up on requests for review or make further attempts to contact the drivers.”

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In a written statement, an Uber spokesperson said the company “will be defending the complaint.”

“Driver accounts are deactivated due to safety issues, fraud, discrimination by the driver or delivery person, or persistently low ratings from riders or Uber Eats users.”

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The spokesperson did not respond to any questions about the drivers’ allegations and a request for an interview was declined.

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On Friday, the B.C. Labour Relations Board confirmed it received UFCW 1518’s complaint on behalf of the drivers, but it will take time to determine whether the case will be heard.

“Typically once an application is accepted, the Board will request submissions from the parties involved,” wrote information officer Julie Griffith.

If parties aren’t willing or able to settle the matter, she added, a hearing will be held and a decision will be made. If the board rules in favour of the complaint, the drivers could be reinstated and compensated for the unfair firings.

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UFCW 1518 said it has been working with Uber drivers and others in the “gig economy” to fight for fairness, better wages and safer conditions.

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It has also penned a letter to B.C. Labour Minister Harry Bains seeking changes to the Employment Standards Act that would enable app-based contract workers to join a union and receive other basic protections.

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