‘Historic’ European taxi protest planned in Brussels on 8 September
A “historic” protest is planned for 8 September in Brussels, organised by European taxi unions who want to see action in response to revelations from the so-called Uber Files, reports VRT.
The publishing of Uber Files made headlines across the EU in July this year as it revealed the cut-throat and at times illegal ways in which the American tech company Uber tried to undermine the traditional taxi sector in pursuit of profit and market domination.
It was revealed that Uber lobbyists were cosying up to prominent politicians, including Brussels’ Pascal Smet.
When Smet was the Brussels minister of mobility in 2015, he played a crucial role in legalising Uber in the city, despite criticism that the American corporation’s business model – in which employees are classified as independent contractors in order to avoid having to give them certain labour rights and protections – has no place in progressive European countries.
Smet was a friend of Uber lobbyist Mark MacGann, who later became a whistleblower for Uber’s ruthless lobbying tactics. The former mobility minister defended himself against any potential ambiguity. After the publication of the Uber Files, he told Le Soir: "I was very clear with him in every conversation: Uber only has a future in Brussels within a framework determined by the government.”
‘It’s time for clarity,’ taxi unions say
Elite Taxi Belgium, an association representing traditional cab drivers, wants to organise a manifestation of historic proportions, together with its European counterparts.
“We have had it with the opacity that was so evident from the UberFiles,” Younes Zerrad of Elite Taxi Belgium told Bruzz.
“It’s time for clarity. That's why we want to protest in the streets of Brussels on 8 September.”
Taxis from all over Europe want to gather on Albert II Boulevard near Brussels North station on the 8th at 10.00.
“We expect at least 1,500 taxis from Belgium but also France, Spain, Portugal, Switzerland, Greece - you name it. All of Europe will be represented,” Zerrad said.
The taxis plan to drive towards the inner ring road through the tunnels, where a Belgian delegation will stop at the office of prime minister Rudi Vervoort (PS).
“We have a lot of questions for Mr Vervoort about the new taxi plan,” explained Zerrad.
This taxi plan, years in the making, aims to harmonise the existence of both traditional taxis and those who drive using tech company apps like Uber, Bolt or Heetch.
After leaving Vervoort’s office, the protest will move to the offices of the European Commission.
“An international delegation will demand a meeting with the President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen,”Zerrad said.
“The aim is to finally get politicians to speak clearly about the UberFiles. All parties involved must be called to account. We demand a national and even a European commission of enquiry to clarify the matter.”
The demonstration has yet to be authorised by the police.
Photo: Belga/Thierry Roge
It is not only a question of transparency but also demanding traditional taxi drivers and taxi businesses to adept to a situation where there are other providers of individualized transport. It is primarily the attractiveness of the offer for the client to be considered! Clients can not be held hostage to assure the continuation of the traditional system simply because it suits the taxi business! Saying that, it is also imperative that the working conditions of Uber drivers and alike must be fair and correspond to European standards of worker protection.
Very well said indeed! The growth of the internet had made many "traditional" businesses obsolete. Just ask any small retailer about Amazon. Competition must be allowed, but it must be "fair competition." Lower-cost suppliers will always (and should) supplant those of higher-cost. That's the nature of western free enterprise and innovation. Tant pis for those who cannot adapt! It's an economic "survival of the fittest."