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Sweeter ride with co-op

Bike couriers say they now enjoy higher wages, health benefits

Toronto Sun, June 15, 2008

By Kwok Wong,

Toronto's bike couriers have ganged up to give themselves a smoother ride on the job.

You might've seen Cheryl Douglas, 57, weaving in and out of the city's busy intersections before, but she's doing it with health benefits and better wages now that she's a part of Courier Co-op Toronto.

"We did the math and said 'this is ridiculous,' these guys work hard for just a few dollars," Douglas said yesterday while at the Cycle Messengers World Championships on Toronto Island's Hanlan's Point.

Officials with the co-op, with just five members and in its seventh week, were busy promoting themselves yesterday amidst other bike messengers competing in races and bike polo competitions.

"(Bike couriers) make under minimum wage as it is and we wanted to change that," said Shane Murphy, 39, a courier for the last 16 years.

"We want the courier to feel he's making what he's worth."

Along with a stronger network of couriers and health benefits, the members of the new co-op are also making more than three times as much as they did working for downtown Toronto's 150 other courier companies, according to Murphy.

"All these other companies are out to make money for themselves, but we're here to make money for the courier that's working for us," Murphy said.

The benefits and wages won't be entirely new for Douglas, who was the head of finance and administration for Parks Canada in Calgary in 1998.

But even with the onslaught of arthritis and their co-op still pending provincial approval -- to allow them to issue shares -- she likely won't be quitting anytime soon.

"It's outdoors, it's physical, it's living on the edge."

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