Bike Couriers ‘Fired’ After Snow Storm
After Requesting Work Adjustments Couriers Claim They Were Fired Illegally
At Quality Assured Courier, it seems jobs aren’t always assured.
After a heavy snowfall on Feb. 13, every bike messenger at QA Courier, a group of five workers, were allegedly fired.
It was “virtually impossible” to bike after 30 cm of snow fell before snow plows were able to clear the streets, they wrote in a statement to media. They claim management at QA was unresponsive to their request to walk instead.
The five also said after their deliveries were delayed by the weather conditions, their bosses became irritated. When they refused to keep working in the snow and tried to negotiate with the company, they said they were all immediately fired.
“Many other courier companies shut down for the day, and it seemed we were some of the very few who were expected to work in such dangerous conditions,” they said in a release to the media. “Every school and university in the city was closed, and even the municipal authorities recommended that everyone stay home.”
QA Courier wrote in a public statement on their Facebook page that no one was suspended or fired following their refusal to work on Feb. 13.
“Every school and university in the city was closed, and even the municipal authorities recommended that everyone stay home.”
“The broker agreement between QA Courier and its biker brokers was in fact terminated by the brokers themselves as soon as we refused to grant them a substantial rate increase, on the spot, without any form of negotiation,” said the post.
The five told The Link it’s common practice in the courier industry for companies to not hire actual employees, but instead to work with independent contractors.
QA Courier confirmed in the Facebook post that they are hired on a contractual basis, and the terms and conditions of those contractual arrangements are subject to mutual agreement.
Though the couriers worked for the same company five days a week, they were still technically self-employed. They must report to their manager, keep company ID’s and have hours set for them without employee status. This means they didn’t have access to receive sick days, vacation pay, health benefits, or the right to refuse work in dangerous conditions, the five highlighted.
“We understand individuals motivation to better their situation, and we work every day to adjust our working conditions to our industry segment,” said QA. “Blackmail and threats, such as those that occurred on Feb. 13, cannot be tolerated.”
The company also said that couriers weren’t forced to work in any conditions that could jeopardize their safety, and said they weren’t penalized for late deliveries.
QA Courier declined to comment further. The five couriers told The Link they wouldn’t be able respond to additional questions since they were sent cease and desist letters from their employer.
The Commission des normes, de l‘équité, de la santé et de la sécurité du travail wasn’t able to confirm or deny that the alleged firing of the couriers was illegal, saying each case has to be evaluated through an investigation.
Quebec’s labour code states workers have the right to refuse to do work that poses a direct danger to themselves or others, barring cases where the work provides safety to others in dangers, such as firefighters.
“They must immediately advise their superior and give them the reasons for their refusal to work,” the CNESST wrote. “They must also remain available in the workplace to execute other tasks if need be.”
Before receiving cease and desist letters, the couriers said they were negotiating with QA to receive employee status.
“[We] believe our old contract accurately defines our worker status, and we’re prepared to take legal action though the [Industrial Workers of the World if necessary].”
The couriers stated they will “refuse to accept anything less.”
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