Federal Labour Minister Seamus O’Regan and several MPs met with members of the Canada Truck Operators Association (CTOA) this week, discussing the roles of incorporated truck drivers and vowing to end references to “Driver Inc.” when referencing how drivers are classified.
The meeting, held May 23 at MP Iqwinder Gaheer’s (Mississauga-Malton) office, included representatives from more than 20 CTOA member carriers, the labour minister, and MPs Charles Sousa, Sonia Sidhu, and Ruby Sahota, in addition to the host.
It came just one week after the Canadian Trucking Alliance (CTA) and Teamsters held a strongly worded press conference at Parliament Hill, condemning the misclassification of truck drivers under the scheme that CTA has labeled Driver Inc. But that’s not language you’ll hear from the federal government, according to CTOA leader Jaskaran Sandhu, who shared details of the meeting with TruckNews.com.
“There were a few things [O’Regan] made very, very clear in that meeting,” Sandhu said. “First and foremost, he assured and promised the industry and our association that from here on in, the term Driver Inc. will never be used by the government. It is a deeply problematic term that unfairly maligns incorporated drivers. In fact, they stated you may have already noticed they don’t use that term anymore after learning how it was weaponized within some circles of our industry.”
Incorporated drivers ‘not going anywhere’
Furthermore, Sandhu said carriers received assurances that “incorporated drivers as a model within the industry is not going anywhere. It will continue to be an important part of how the government sees the labor shortage being tackled in the industry.”
Government officials also indicated incorporated drivers will have to meet criteria that establishes them as independent operators – not employee drivers. Enforcement, however, will be educational in nature and, according to Sandhu, will not be “targeted” against any segment of the industry. Any enforcement action from the Ministry of Labour’s Employment and Social Development Canada (ESDC) will only be prompted from complaints originating from within a trucking company.
“The government was clear, and our association agrees, that where there is misclassification as per the existing rules, the government will work with carriers to solve those problems,” Sandhu said.
“Drivers who knowingly and freely choose to work as independent contractors are legitimate and recognized. Tackling worker misclassification means cracking down on the bad actors who deny labor rights to their employees by designating them as independent contractors. We’re taking an education-first approach to enforcement, so we can support drivers and root out those giving independent contractors a bad name,” the labor minister’s office said in a statement to TruckNews.com.
Educational initiatives were discussed, such as a seminar the CTOA will host alongside the government to raise awareness about the issue of driver misclassification.
“Enforcement is going to be education-driven, not the kind of clampdown I think some people thought government was going to do. Much more education-driven,” Sandhu said. “The government knows and understands this issue is much more complex than is being presented by legacy organizations.”
The association was assured that enforcement initiatives will originate from employee complaints.
“There is no targeted campaign coming,” Sandhu said. “We are happy to work with [government] to make sure when people are choosing to be an incorporated driver it is something done out of choice.”
He added, “the government recognized the manner in which the incorporated driver model has been labeled as something that is exploitive is patently false, that in most cases drivers are choosing to be incorporated and they enjoy a lot of the freedoms that amount to an independent relationship.”
A spokesman from O’Regan’s office confirmed to TruckNews.com, speaking on background, that the meeting took place, and that the term Driver Inc. won’t be used by government as the term has been deemed “toxic” and doesn’t reflect the gig economy beyond the driving profession.