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British Columbia has become the first province in Canada to establish a minimum wage and additional protections for gig workers employed by app-based companies like Uber, DoorDash, Skip the Dishes, and Lyft. 

Starting September 3, these workers will be guaranteed a minimum wage of $20.88 per hour during “engaged time,” the period from accepting an assignment to its completion. This pay rate is 20% higher than B.C.’s general minimum wage of $17.40 per hour, which the province said is to account for the time spent waiting between assignments. Like the minimum wage, the rate will increase annually based on inflation. 

The new regulations, announced Wednesday, target ride-hailing and delivery workers who accept assignments through third-party apps. Other types of gig workers, such as freelance writers, musicians, or dog walkers, are not included in these new regulations. 

“Too many workers in this industry are putting in long hours and being paid less than the minimum wage,” said Parliamentary Secretary for Labour Janet Routledge. “At the end of a shift, after paying their vehicle expenses, these workers are barely ahead of where they started. The new protections are going to change that.”

British Columbia’s provincial government estimated that there are around 11,000 ride-hailing drivers and 35,000 delivery workers in the province.

The province cited statistics by Pollara Strategic Insights which found that in 2023, 38% of people used rideshare apps, and 46% used food-delivery apps in British Columbia.

A different poll from Pollara found that 55% of British Columbians opposed implementing a special minimum wage, while only 28% supported it. 

On top of the increased minimum wage, gig workers using their personal vehicles for work will be compensated. Ride-hailing assignments will provide an additional $0.45 per kilometre, while delivery assignments will provide an additional $0.35 per kilometre, which will also apply to e-bikes and scooters. 

Companies employing gig workers to which the rules apply will be prohibited from withholding or making deductions from tips.

Various other new rules and regulations will apply to platform companies, such as the requirement to inform workers why they are being suspended or terminated. 

Ride-hailing and delivery workers will be applicable for workers’ compensation, including vocational rehabilitation services for work-related injuries.

A full-time ride-hailing and delivery worker, Sandeep Singh Chhina, said that the security of a minimum wage will be a game changer for him.

“What also stands out is the peace of mind my family and I will have in knowing that if I’m ever injured on the job, I will have workers’ compensation coverage,” said Chhina. 

Platform companies will be responsible for registering for coverage with WorkSafeBC and paying the necessary premiums. They must also adhere to health and safety regulations to protect workers, report injuries or diseases, and investigate significant incidents.

Unifor, Canada’s largest union in the private sector, celebrated B.C.’s announcement.

“B.C. is leading the way to enshrine the basic rights of the gig workers,” said Unifor National President Lana Payne. “Today’s proposals will take gig workers one step closer to economic fairness.”

Some of the companies have already warned that the cost will be passed down to the consumer. 

Speaking at an unrelated news conference, British Columbia Premier David Eby said that he doesn’t want his food brought to him by someone who has to use a food bank, isn’t covered by WorkSafeBC, or is ending up further in debt because their employer doesn’t pay for their car.

“The people who deliver food for these app-based services are often right on the edge. They’re really struggling with costs and everything else,” said Eby.

“These companies can suck it up. They’ll be alright. They’ll be fine,” he added.