After several false starts, American ride-hailing company Uber could begin offering rides within the city of Winnipeg this week, possibly even as early as today. The Uber timeline was contained in an email sent to a prospective driver and obtained by the Free Press. The company did not respond to a request for comment. Uber, which treats its network of drivers as contractors rather than employees, was founded in Silicon Valley in 2009 as an early example of a company operating within the “gig” economy. Over the past decade, it’s expanded into hundreds of cities around the world, including most major Canadian cities, offering rides through its app. Winnipeg has nonetheless remained an untapped market for the company. For years, the company was hung up by what it felt were restrictive regulations from Manitoba Public Insurance, but in March, Uber Canada changed course, announcing it would begin driving in Winnipeg as soon as it had enough drivers to do so. Apparently, that time is now. “Buckle up,” an email sent out Monday said. “Drivers with completed accounts should be able to begin driving at 11am tomorrow.” The company got its dispatcher licence in June. In other Canadian cities where Uber has begun operations, including Toronto, Uber drivers have joined the United Food and Commercial Workers Canada union, citing various labour concerns like pay below minimum wage, lack of benefits, and unfair rating systems. While it expands into Winnipeg, Uber’s global footprint is also growing: on Monday, the company, whose shares were trading at US$32.52, purchased for US$2.5 billion Postmates Inc., another gig delivery service, to pair with Uber Eats. Bloomberg reported that Uber shares rose nine per cent after the all-stock transaction. Uber’s COVID-19 related policies can be found on the company’s website, and include pre-ride checklists, mandatory masks for drivers, and open windows, plus a reduction in passengers per ride. At its nadir in the spring, Uber’s ridership dropped by as much as 80 per cent, however, that figure has rebounded slightly as reopening takes place across North America. *by Ben Waldman via Winnipeg Free Press*

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