Wednesday

26th Sep 2018

Taxi drivers snarl up Brussels in anti-Uber protest

  • 'People use Uber because it is is cheaper. It's the only reason', said taxi driver Rachid (Photo: Peter Teffer)

A tense scene took place in the Rue Belliard in Brussels' European Union neighbourhood on Wednesday morning (16 September).

A pedestrian in an orange-striped shirt held up his middle finger in the direction of two taxis, parked in the middle of the unusually empty street.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 18 year's of archives. 30 days free trial.

... or join as a group

  • A man threw fireworks while taxi drivers protested in the Rue Belliard in Brussels (Photo: Peter Teffer)

The man, walking from a safe distance of around twenty metres, shouted at the two taxi drivers. He was apparently not impressed by their demonstration against what taxi drivers see as unfair competition by American company Uber.

Uber allows people without taxi permits to sell rides via mobile phone app Uberpop.

“I only take Uber!”, the man shouted towards Rachid, a 42-year-old taxi driver from Brussels, who preferred not to give his last name.

“Go by foot!”, the taxi driver shouted back.

It was perhaps not the best way to maintain the relationship with potential customers, but Rachid said he felt he had no choice.

“What can we do?”, he said.

“People use Uber because it is is cheaper. It's the only reason”, Rachid said. But the reason why Uber drivers have lower fares, is because they do not pay taxes, or need the permits that taxi drivers do, he added.

He questioned the screening that Uber says it does of its drivers. “I won't send my child on an Uber.”

The taxi drivers' protest on Wednesday caused delays all over Brussels. In addition to a taxi convoy which made its way from Brussels North train station to the EU area's Schuman square, there were also unannounced blockades.

Around 1,200 protesters are reportedly taking part, with the police advising people to avoid travelling to the city centre by car.

Belgian media reported that some people had to walk the last leg on their journey to the airport because of the unannounced blockades – a handful missed their flights.

The situation at the intersection of the Rue de la Loi and Avenue des Arts was more jovial.

A police officer was chatting to some taxi drivers, whose cars had been parked in rows, blocking one side of the city's inner ring road.

Another taxi driver joined the conversation, arguing that Uber drivers should adhere to the same rules they do.

“In the Netherlands, Airbnb is starting to follow the rules. So it is possible”, he said, handing this reporter a leaflet that said “End social dumping – Uber STOP!”.

In Amsterdam, Airbnb, an online platform for individuals to rent out parts of their house – and seen as a competitor by the traditional hotel sector – has started to charge tourism taxes, to pay to the municipal government. It recently announced it would start doing the same in Paris as of 1 October.

Uber so far has appeared less willing to follow the existing rules, which, it claims, stifles innovation.

“Taxi drivers are trying to protect their monopoly”, Filip Nuytemans, general manager of Uber Belgium, told Belgian news programme De Ochtend. “The law should be adapted to allow competition and innovation”, he added.

Belgian deputy prime minister Alexander De Croo also took a jab at the striking taxi drivers, in a social media message.

“Improve customer experience. Invest in technology. Innovate the business. All things the taxi sector could do instead of strike”, De Croo wrote.

But Rachid said it was difficult for him to earn enough money to feed his four children. “I have ten to fifteen clients a day. Two years ago, I think I had twice as much.”

He does not blame the Uber drivers as much as he does the company.

“It's not about the people, it's about the system”, Rachid noted, adding that there may be a race to the bottom, if services like taxis and hotels, and possibly others, come under increasing pressure of competition from new online platforms.

“I have never stayed at an Airbnb. But I understand why people do it. You have to find a solution to spend less if you are paid less”, he said.

Another anti-Uber protest is scheduled to take place in Brussels on 7 October.

Uber suspends taxi app in Spain

The American app company Uber has suspended its ride-sharing service UberPop in Spain, after a court in Madrid banned the app.

Focus

Uber: Goodbye Denmark, but not farewell

Ride-sharing service Uber has announced it will shut down activities in Denmark in protest over a new law introducing the same requirements for Uber as for other taxi services.

News in Brief

  1. No UK election before Brexit, says May
  2. Former French PM wants to be mayor of Barcelona
  3. Merkel's wingman in surprise defeat in internal party vote
  4. Orban sends thank-you letters to supportive MEPs
  5. UN chief: World suffering from 'trust deficit disorder'
  6. Stalemate in Sweden as parliament ousts prime minister
  7. Migrant rescue ship heading to French port
  8. EU angry at British tabloids on Brexit

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSThe vital bioeconomy. New issue of “Sustainable Growth the Nordic Way” out now
  2. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSThe Nordic gender effect goes international
  3. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSPaula Lehtomaki from Finland elected as the Council's first female Secretary General
  4. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSNordic design sets the stage at COP24, running a competition for sustainable chairs.
  5. Counter BalanceIn Kenya, a motorway funded by the European Investment Bank runs over roadside dwellers
  6. ACCACompany Law Package: Making the Best of Digital and Cross Border Mobility,
  7. IPHRCivil Society Worried About Shortcomings in EU-Kyrgyzstan Human Rights Dialogue
  8. UNESDAThe European Soft Drinks Industry Supports over 1.7 Million Jobs
  9. Mission of China to the EUJointly Building Belt and Road Initiative Leads to a Better Future for All
  10. IPHRCivil society asks PACE to appoint Rapporteur to probe issue of political prisoners in Azerbaijan
  11. ACCASocial Mobility – How Can We Increase Opportunities Through Training and Education?
  12. Nordic Council of MinistersEnergy Solutions for a Greener Tomorrow

Latest News

  1. World upside down as EU and Russia unite against US
  2. EU court delivers transparency blow on MEP expenses
  3. Russian with Malta passport in money-laundering probe
  4. Cyprus: Russia's EU weak link?
  5. Missing signature gaffe for Azerbaijan gas pipeline
  6. Every major city in Europe is getting warmer
  7. No chance of meeting EU renewable goals if infrastructure neglected
  8. Brexit and MEPs expenses in the spotlight This WEEK

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. UNICEFWhat Kind of Europe Do Children Want? Unicef & Eurochild Launch Survey on the Europe Kids Want
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Countries Take a Stand for Climate-Smart Energy Solutions
  3. Mission of China to the EUChina: Work Together for a Better Globalisation
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersNordics Could Be First Carbon-Negative Region in World
  5. European Federation of Allergy and AirwaysLife Is Possible for Patients with Severe Asthma
  6. PKEE - Polish Energy AssociationCommon-Sense Approach Needed for EU Energy Reform
  7. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Region to Lead in Developing and Rolling Out 5G Network
  8. Mission of China to the EUChina-EU Economic and Trade Relations Enjoy a Bright Future
  9. ACCAEmpowering Businesses to Engage with Sustainable Finance and the SDGs
  10. Nordic Council of MinistersCooperation in Nordic Electricity Market Considered World Class Model
  11. FIFAGreen Stadiums at the 2018 Fifa World Cup
  12. Mission of China to the EUChina and EU Work Together to Promote Sustainable Development

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us