More information on driver training and other issues is needed before a decision can be made on how to change the rules around how Uber, Lyft and cab companies operate, a city committee decided Monday.
After an afternoon of deputations that were critical of many of the proposed amendments, the city’s general government and licensing committee voted to ask city staff to come up with more details on how proposed training for drivers could work; the impact of ride-hailing services like Uber and Lyft on congestion; and what opportunities exist to ensure higher vehicle fuel-efficiency standards in the industry.
“Uber and Lyft are probably never going to go away — I don’t see that happening,” said Councillor Paul Ainslie, who tabled one of the motions requesting more information, adding that more work needs to be done to balance the competing interests of cab companies and the ride-hailing industry.
The decision was made on the same day that the United Food and Commercial Workers union (UFCW Canada) announced that hundreds of Uber drivers in Toronto have joined the union — a Canadian first, according to Pablo Godoy, the national co-ordinator of gig and platform employer initiatives for the union.
“Ride-sharing platforms are able to circumvent labour law under the guise of claiming to be a tech company rather than an employer,” said Godoy, promising more details later in the week.
In a statement issued Monday, the UFCW pointed out that Uber drivers don’t get paid sick days, vacation days or extended health coverage and must cover their own fuel and repair costs,.
“A recent study by the Economic Policy Institute calculated that after costs, most Uber drivers earned less than $10 an hour,” according to the UFCW.
The current minimum wage in Ontario is $14 an hour.
Two of the most contentious proposals for reform of the bylaw include whether all drivers — for cab companies and ride-hailing services — should have mandatory training, designed by the city, and whether there should be a cap on the number of drivers for private transportation companies (PTCs) like Uber and Lyft.
The number of taxicab and limousine drivers has remained relatively consistent over the last several years, ranging from 11,131 in 2013 to 13,317 as of June 1, according to city figures.
Since the licensing of PTCs, the number of PTC drivers has increased, from 29,051 PTC drivers in 2016 to 90,435 PTC drivers as of June 1. The number of PTC drivers does not reflect the number of PTC cars on the road, as some people drive only occasionally or for a short period of time.
A spokesperson for Uber declined to answer the question of whether the company supports mandatory driver training.
“We are supportive of an evidence-based approach to safety and we are happy to work with the city,” said Uber’s Adam Blinick.
April Mims, a spokesperson for Lyft, told the committee that Lyft drivers are extensively screened and have passed a thorough driver record review in addition to having their vehicle pass a comprehensive vehicle inspection.
“We believe that a driver training requirement is redundant and, if executed poorly, would have the unintended result of increasing both prices and wait times for riders in Toronto,” Mims said, adding that driver training should be made available to drivers electronically.
“Part of the value of ridesharing is that drivers can apply and drive based on their own schedule. In-person training would significantly reduce that flexibility — impacting both ride availability and flexible earning options for drivers.”
Several of the deputants requested a cap on the number of PTC drivers.
Earla Phillips, a former Lyft driver and current Uber driver, said her income has plummeted as the number of drivers has risen.
“Drivers are burning more gas and making less money,” she said.
Francine Kopun is a Toronto-based reporter covering city politics. Follow her on Twitter: @KopunF