Brussels Government clashes over temporary solution for Uber taxi drivers

Brussels Government clashes over temporary solution for Uber taxi drivers
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The Brussels-Capital Region is looking for a temporary solution to help the almost 2,000 drivers who were essentially rendered jobless following a court ruling against Uber last week.

The Brussels Court of Appeal ruled that drivers with an FVO/LVC professional licence (allowing hired drivers to operate private vehicles) could no longer use the Uber app, essentially leaving some 2,000 drivers in the capital without a job from Friday 26 November.

"We are now looking for a temporary solution that takes into account the strict interests of the workers. And one that fits in with the spirit of the reform of the sector," Brussels Minister-President Rudi Vervoort told Le Soir.

He stressed that workers' rights will come first, as "they are the ones who need to be protected, both against certain taxi company bosses and against multinationals that impose a certain model, without transparency, in which you don't control your ability to work."

He added that the reform of the sector under the "Taxi Plan", announced by the government last Thursday, and formally adopted on Thursday (2 December) afternoon by ministers at first reading, also takes this reality into account.

It aims to ensure that traditional taxis can coexist with more flexible forms of passenger transport (such as Uber) and promised to offer solutions both in the long term – through consultations with the sector – and in the short term, through an emergency ordinance which would allow drivers to work for Uber again from 10 or 13 December.

The solution proposed by Vervoort's socialist PS party proposal aims to speed up the examination of the draft reform of the taxi ordinance on which the entire Brussels Government has agreed.

Taxi wars

These latest proposals upset "traditional" taxi operators, who argued that this measure essentially overturns a decision against Uber. The CSC-Transcom trade union expressed its opposition to the Brussels Government's ordinance, and said it believes that this temporary order was decided "in an emergency" and in so doing goes "against the principles of social consultation and thereby flouts the separation of powers".

"The solution advocated by the Brussels political world, apart from the PS, is a solution dictated by Uber which is trying by all means to continue its activities by circumventing the obligations incumbent on all employers in Belgium", Philippe Lescot of CSC-Transcom stated in a press release.

Earlier on Thursday, people were warned not to come to Brussels by car on Thursday as "traditional" taxi drivers blocked the streets of Brussels as part of protest action against Uber and the emergency ordinance to help drivers get back to work, similar to the action taken by Uber drivers just one week ago.

The drivers targeted strategic locations in the city, including Place Général Meiser, the Schuman roundabout and various key tunnels connecting within the city, including the Botanique, Rogier and Arts-Loi tunnels.

The Brussels Parliament will meet on Friday to consider the proposed texts relating to the Uber/taxi driver case, in hopes of finding a solution that will not only please both sides of this debate but also unifty the Government, as opinions are currently divided on this topic and a possible solution.

These new forms of mobility will be included in the reform, as "the use of paid, flexible transport is much more important than twenty years ago. This is not a sector that will disappear," he concluded.

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