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Brussels' Uber drivers pledge to continue protests over court ruling
Uber drivers in Brussels say they will bring traffic in the capital to a standstill every day until their objections to the ruling by the Brussels Court of Appeal, which put 2,000 jobs in jeopardy, are heard by Minister-President Rudi Vervoort.
Following the order by the court for drivers with an LVC license, who use the Uber application for the paid transport of people, to cease operations, Uber operators held protests on Wednesday and Thursday before staging a major action on Friday.
Basing its decision on the Regional Ordinance 1995 on Taxi Services and Chauffeur-Driven Car Rental Companies, the court effectively declared the use of the Uber app to be illegal. Drivers have since taken to the streets to demand new legislation from the Brussels government.
Four tunnels leading into Brussels city centre were blocked by Uber drivers on Friday morning, causing major disruption. Traffic using the Cinquantenaire, Loi, Tervuren and Léopold II tunnels, as well as Rue de la Loi, experienced significant delays as the Uber drivers began their action during the morning rush hour at around 7am. Police called for drivers to remove the vehicles causing the blockages or have them impounded. Traffic remained backed up until around 10.20am.
"We will block Brussels every day by making the traffic crawl until we get a response from the Minister-President of the Brussels-Capital Region," warned Fernando Redondo, president of the Belgian Association of Limousine Drivers (ABCL), on Wednesday.
Meetings were held between Vervoort’s cabinet and the Belgian Association of Limousine Drivers (ABCL), the Union of Belgian Limousine Drivers (UCLB) and the Union Syndicale des Chauffeurs Privés (USCP) on Thursday evening. But despite reaching of an agreement on the project to reform the paid passenger transport services sector, which the Minister-President said would create "secure and reliable legal framework for all professionals in the sector while ensuring a quality service for users", Uber drivers said that this was insufficient and pledged to continue their protests.
"We have been told of an intermediate solution which will act as a bridge to the start of the Taxi plan, but we decided that it's all too vague so we'll continue with our actions," said ABCL president Fernando Redondo.
"We will continue to keep up the pressure until we get something concrete. Otherwise, we will find ourselves on the street without work,” Redondo continued. “We find the progress to be positive, but we want concrete action because it has been seven years of promises."
"We were promised a Taxi plan for the summer and now it's the end of November and we still have nothing. We will stay on the street until we're sure we can work again."
While waiting for the plan to be delivered, Uber drivers are asking for financial assistance for all the families who will be without income as a result of the court ruling. "There are many who have children and their wives do not work,” said one of the protesting drivers. “They have a whole family dependent on this work. How will they support themselves? There is much fear."
"The judgment was based on an obsolete law of 1995,” said another. “Currently, everyone uses smartphones, even taxis. I do not understand why we cannot. It's a total disgrace."
The Uber platform has meanwhile launched a petition to support Uber drivers in Brussels. It's estimated that from Friday, only 5% of the current capacity of Uber vehicles will circulate in Brussels and its surroundings, including those operating on a Flemish license.