Taxi and Uber drivers stage protest in front of Brussels parliament

Taxi and Uber drivers stage protest in front of Brussels parliament
A traditional taxi cab in downtown Brussels. Photo by Helen Lyons/The Brussels Times

Traditional taxi drivers and LVC (chauffeur licence) drivers for platforms like Uber are protesting on Tuesday outside the Brussels Parliament, where lawmakers are considering the city’s official Taxi Plan.

Intended to broker peace and level the playing field between the two different types of drivers serving the Belgian capital, the proposal seeks to establish a cap on the number of Uber drivers operating in the title.

However, both traditional cab drivers and Uber drivers will be protesting as members of parliament debate the Taxi Plan, but they’ll be doing so for different reasons. Uber drivers say the cap on platform drivers like themselves is too low; traditional taxi drivers want assurances that it won’t be raised.

This week, the long-overdue Taxi Plan was met with criticism from Uber, who says it will place a cap on the number of drivers will cause many drivers to lose their source of income.

2,600 platform drivers is the most that traditional taxi companies want to allow

“We are happy to double the current limit with a maximum of 2,600 drivers, but under no circumstances should it be higher, because then taxi drivers will suffer,” Khalid Ed-Denguir, president of the Belgian Taxi Federation (BTF), told Bruzz.

But Uber says that even 2,600 wouldn’t be enough to meet demand for their services in Brussels.

“Look at Amsterdam – a smaller city, 7,000 drivers; Dublin, a smaller city – 9,000 drivers. What are we doing? This makes no sense – we’re going backwards,” Laurent Slits, head of Uber for Belgium, recently told The Brussels Times.

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The less available Uber drivers, the higher customers must pay for a ride, which results in less people choosing to use the platform and, in turn, lower demand and therefore less drivers – a vicious cycle that would upend Uber’s entire business model.

With such opposite goals in each of their protests, the Brussels Taxi Federation (BTF) has called on its members to just stay home: “It's already confusing enough as it is,” said BTF spokesman Sam Bouchal.

“Some of the taxis are coming out on the street, alongside the Brussels, Flemish and Walloon VVC drivers. What the Brussels VVC drivers want is not what their Flemish and Walloon counterparts want. If we then also come onto the streets it will only lead to more confusion.”

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