Photo: Aaron Parecki. Taxi cab drivers in Portland, USA demand the same rules for ride-sharing companies

Flanders taxi reform opens door to Uber and threatens driver income

The ITF has express concern that taxi reforms under consideration for the Flanders region of Belgium appear to widen the door to Uber and similar ride hailing companies and threaten the incomes of employed taxi drivers.

The BTB union has told the ITF that details unveiled last week include the removal of fixed tariffs, so that each operator can set its own fares and put as many vehicles on the streets as it wishes. Currently, each municipality determines a city-wide tariff for taxis and caps the number of taxis in operation.

There are 3,000 employed and 2,000 self-employed drivers in taxi and for-hire services in Flanders. While for-hire drivers have an hourly wage system, so-called salaried taxi employees earn their wages on a percentage of their fare income.

John Reynaert, BTB deputy federal secretary, said: “We are worried that the proposed changes will create fiercer competition in the industry and place an important role on digital platforms like Uber.

“A drop in fares will inevitably have a negative effect on the income of taxi employees. This reform cannot be done at the expense of the 3,000 salaried taxi drivers in Flanders. This is simply not negotiable.”

A new national Belgian law encourages workers to take up a second job and offers tax-free income on that job up to 6,000 euros annually or 500 euros monthly. This means any worker could work additional hours as a taxi driver. 

Mac Urata, ITF automation and future of work coordinator, commented that the gig economy is promoted around the world through changes in legislation like these in Belgium. Combined with taxi deregulation, these invite digital platform operators to proliferate in the transport sector. 

He concluded that such a toxic mix will only undermine the recent European Court of Justice (ECJ) ruling that recognised Uber as a transport services company in the European Union.

Read more about the ECJ ruling here

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