European taxi drivers block Brussels in Uber Files protest
Cabbies pour into EU quarter to push for action against ride-hailing giant.
Angry taxi drivers from across Europe brought traffic to a halt in Brussels to protest against ride-hailing platform Uber.
The gathering follows the Uber Files investigation in July, which documented how Uber circumvented regulations and courted lawmakers, including French President Emmanuel Macron, as it expanded its business. Disappointed with their own governments, protesters said they want the EU to step in.
Hundreds of drivers brandishing Spanish, Swiss and Italian flags cut across Brussels’ Rue Belliard on the way to the Schuman roundabout, in front of the European Commission’s Berlaymont building, where they placed tombstones telling the EU to "act now or don't cry later."
“That shows just how fed up we are,” said Hatem, a taxi driver from Geneva, Switzerland.
He argued that Uber doesn't want to operate legally, but “authorities have been turning a blind eye for years.” Other companies would have been stopped, "but not Uber. It's above any law,” he said. “All over Europe, taxis are suffering with the complicity of European states,” Hatem added.
Abdel, who traveled from Paris to join the protest, said the hope is that the EU will “take an interest in us, and pay attention to all these governments, all these statesmen … who give the green light to Uber.”
On the EU level, the Council of the EU and the European Parliament are investigating a Commission proposal on platform work that could reclassify up to 4.1 million workers, including Uber drivers, as employees rather than independent contractors.
Abdel argued that drivers who work for Uber are dependent on the ride-hailing platform “because from one day to the next, it could withdraw their membership of the platform, and from one day to the next, they could find themselves without a job because they're independent.”
He complained that French taxi drivers had paid up to €250,000 to get a license to operate, but that their price had dropped after the arrival of Uber, costing drivers a lot of money.
In an emailed statement, an Uber spokesperson said that "we’ve moved from an era of confrontation to one of collaboration, demonstrating a willingness to come to the table and find common ground with former opponents, including labor unions and taxi companies."
The spokesperson argued that Uber is "now regulated in more than 10,000 cities around the world, working at all levels of government to improve the lives of those using our platform and the cities we serve."