Taxi drivers at Zaventem Airport Friday afternoon strike for 2.5 hours In protest against mandatory language requirements. The Flemish government wants to impose an oral and written Dutch language test (level B1) on drivers from July 1, 2024. “The standard is very high,” Pierre Steenbergen, secretary general of the National Group of Taxi Companies, said on Friday on Radio 1's De Oostende.
Steenbergen believes that airport taxi drivers should “of course” be able to speak Dutch, but he has serious questions about the level imposed. “The written exam is a real problem: 80 percent of them fail,” he says. “Flemish civil servants are also expected to have level B1. We support basic knowledge level A2, just as in other countries.”
According to Steenbergen, basic knowledge of the Dutch language is sufficient. “De Lijn drivers have no language requirements,” he says. “It seems as if taxi drivers are being targeted. People who have been working in this sector for years are at risk of losing their jobs. This is theft.”
Given the tight job market and the 240 hours of lessons drivers must take, Steenbergen fears “there won't be any more taxis on the road.” Anyone who does not pass the test risks losing their driving license in Flanders. Flemish language requirements do not apply to drivers with a Brussels permit.
According to Steenbergen, 400 taxi drivers with a Flemish permit operate upon arrival at Zaventem Airport. He also describes the taxi sector as “the most diverse sector in Flanders, with many people of different origins.”
The representative of the taxi sector hopes that the procedure will be modified. Steenbergen proposes, for example, eliminating the written test or giving people who already worked as taxi drivers before 2020 an exemption. Drivers hope that the Council of Flemish Mobility Ministers Lydia Peeters (Open VLD) will provide an answer to their questions before the end of February.
“Use public transportation”
Brussels Airport advises passengers landing at the airport on Friday afternoon to use public transport. Taxi drivers with a Flemish permit working in the arrivals area of Brussels Airport will stop working from 3pm to 5:30pm.
Nathalie Pierard, spokeswoman for Brussels Airport, says that this measure may disrupt the movement of taxis at the airport. The airport does not know exactly what will happen, but it expects a possible reduction in taxi capacity. Arriving passengers will also be notified via screens. “Staff are also informed and can refer people to public transportation,” Pierard said. Little inconvenience is expected for departing passengers going to the airport by taxi.
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