Conflicts & War

Taxi drivers demand EU crackdown on Uber in Brussels demonstration

Brussels, Sep 8 (EFE).- Around 700 taxi drivers from different countries in Europe and North America demonstrated Thursday in Belgium’s capital to demand a European Union crackdown on app-based ride-hailing platform Uber.

Taxis from seven EU member states and other countries such as Switzerland, Mexico and the United States paraded around Brussels’ Schuman roundabout, located next to the headquarters of the European Commission (EC) and the Council of the EU.

Several drivers and members of the European Parliament also gathered at the roundabout to demand regulations on Uber’s activity, holding up signs denouncing that San Francisco-based company and even using fake tombstones to symbolically represent the death of the taxi business.

The EC – the EU’s executive arm – in December proposed a draft bill that would reclassify gig workers – such as drivers and delivery personnel at digital platforms like Amazon and Uber – as employees and make them eligible for more benefits.

Before it can enter into force though, it requires the approval of the EU members states and the European Parliament.

“We’re sick of European institutions and institutions in all the countries listening more to companies that are authentic organized gangs, criminal gangs, that use mafia tactics, as evidenced in the ‘Uber Files.’ They’re making laws for criminals,” the spokesman for Elite Taxi, a Barcelona-based association of taxi drivers, Alberto Alvarez Vega, told Efe.

British daily newspaper The Guardian on July 10 published the “Uber Files,” an expose based on giant trove of leaked confidential files that accused the company of scheming to enter European markets via illegal practices, aggressively lobbying governments and carrying out misinformation campaigns.

“What the ‘Uber Files’ have done is awaken all the anger and all the taxi drivers who had been asleep,” Alvarez said. “Now we’re organizing the most powerful associations in all the countries” to mount a big European-wide lobbying campaign.

“When taxi drivers organize, no one can deal with us because we have a lot of power to exert pressure and we’re going to use it,” he said.

Alvarez said Thursday’s demonstration was “just a warning” and threatened to “shut down all the airports of Europe if necessary.”

“When you have nothing to lose, you become fearless.”

Alvarez also demanded that an investigation into the Uber Files be conducted in the European Parliament and in Spain.

“We’re going to call out anyone who doesn’t support this … as if they were part of Uber, as if they were supporting criminals,” he said.

Alvarez added that companies like Uber need to be heavily regulated.

“This stuff about freedom that a lot of political parties talk about, it’s totally the opposite. It’s the reverse: you have to put limits on things, because if not they do away with our freedom,” he said.

Also participating in the demonstration was a European Parliament member from Spain, Idoia Villanueva of the left-wing Podemos party, who told Efe that digitalization “cannot be a tool for scrapping labor rights.

In a forum on alternatives to “uberization” earlier Thursday at the European Parliament, Spain’s second deputy prime minister, Yolanda Diaz, spoke of the need to build a just technological transition in which workers are the protagonists, innovation is at the service of the common good and artificial intelligence improves the lives of the majority. EFE


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