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Former Calgary SkipTheDishes driver says contractors are skipping proper auto insurance

A former Calgary driver with SkipTheDishes says a potential class-action lawsuit could help bring awareness to problems within the industry, including a potential issue with improperly insured drivers.

The lawsuit filed last week by a Winnipeg driver alleges SkipTheDishes misled its workers by defining them as private contractors instead of employees, according to an article by the CBC.

None of the allegations in the lawsuit have been proven in court.

Michael Larsson was a SkipTheDishes driver for 18 months until he was fired for being rude to a customer who didn’t tip.

For nine months, Larsson was also the administrator of a Facebook group for Calgary SkipTheDishes drivers. Through that, he spoke to many others and got a sense of how they feel about the industry.

“Most of our members like the benefits of being an independent contractor and would like to remain so,” said Larsson.

“However, the insurance requirements are not (financially) viable for couriers and as such, here in Alberta, the 99 per cent don’t declare anything to their insurance company.”

LiveWire reached out to SkipTheDishes for this story. A spokesperson said because of the potential of the pending lawsuit, they would not be commenting. We attempted to clarify our questions pertaining to the specific insurance issues brought forward by Larsson and whether or not SkipTheDishes required proof of valid insurance from drivers. Again, SkipTheDishes replied.

“Due to the relevance of these questions to the previously mentioned statement of claim, we will not be responding at this time. We look forward to responding through the appropriate channels, and you, as soon as we’re able,” a spokesperson responded via email.

Initially, the company’s website had posted their courier agreement. That link has since gone dead. The information posted there was the following:

Contents of the SkipTheDishes website page that had the courier agreement. The online page can no longer be found.

LiveWire Calgary asked specifically what it means to “represent and warrant,” and if that was interchangeable with “provide proof of insurance.”

Rob De Pruis, director of consumer and industry relations with the Insurance Bureau of Canada, said drivers for SkipTheDishes who don’t disclose their work to their insurance company could risk voiding their policy.

“Commercial insurance is more expensive than personal because the expectation is that you’re going to be on the roads a lot more,” said De Pruis.

“Those premiums reflect more of the risk for that.”

Larsson said getting insurance in provinces like Saskatchewan with a single public insurance corporation is less of a problem because the policies are cheaper. Alberta has a private auto insurance system.

Although he’s no longer a driver, he hopes there will be changes that arise because of the lawsuit.

“One of the things we hope will come out of this is raising publicity, especially among the affluent clients of SkipTheDishes who must believe incorrectly that we are employees earning $15 and hour with vehicle expenses paid,” he said.

“We are not, and without tips and after costs we average only around $7 per hour.”

The other thing he would like to see come out of the lawsuit is a group insurance plan that will make insurance more affordable for the drivers. Other companies such as Uber and Door Dash have group insurance plans.

Larsson’s advice to those who regularly order is to tip up front, because drivers can pick their jobs, and will avoid orders for restaurants without parking and without an advance tip.

He said drivers are totally within their rights to ignore these orders, and typically do because they aren’t worthwhile.

“Hopefully if these customers begin to understand how SkipTheDishes pays its independent contractors and why there are delivery issues when you don’t tip, things will change,” said Larsson.