The Union of Belgian Limousine Drivers (UCLB) staged a protest on 9 May, demanding increased consultation of planned government reforms in the taxi sector.
According to the Brussels-Ixelles Police, protestors gathered at 09:30 at the Place Poelaert before heading towards the offices of the Minister-President of the Brussels government Rudi Vervoort. Other groups of protestors will drive towards the headquarters of the Green and Socialist parties.
The ride-sharing drivers claim that, while they were originally consulted on the first draft of the so-called "taxi plan", they have received no further communication from the local government. The third reading of the planned reforms was approved by the regional government without consultation in April, and is set to be considered by the Brussels parliament.
The UCLB complains that the new reforms will force ride-sharing app drivers to undergo all the administrative requirements of the rest of the sector, but with harsher rules.
“Taxis will be able to continue to transfer their licence, but the proposed ‘street taxis’, which are the current (ride-sharing taxis), will no longer be able to do so,” said UCLB representative Asmaa Snaibi.
Not only will ride-sharing drivers undergo stricter licensing requirements, but the drivers will soon be expected to pass aptitude tests and evaluations in line with the standards of the taxi sector.
Under the plans, Uber drivers and other ride-sharing drivers must pass a certificate of competence which is currently required of normal taxi drivers, regardless of their experience. Psychological evaluations are also said to be strict and hard to access.
“Drivers are declared fit or unfit without the slightest motivation. The course for this aptitude certificate is very heavy and there are a large number of failures because of this psychological aptitude. Also, there is no room (for the test). Drivers try to register every day,” the UCLB representative said.
According to Snaibi, the tests are forcing experienced drivers into bankruptcy.
The plans also aim to limit the total number of vehicles that would be permitted to operate within Brussels. This total limit has yet to be set out by the government.
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According to the UCLB, there are 140 taxi licences that have been pending since January 2021 in Brussels. The union hopes that this will be factored into the government’s decisions.
These are licences for taxi drivers that Flemish and Walloons drivers have submitted in order to be able to continue their work within the capital. The constitutional court recently overturned a deadline for these new applications.