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During the busy Ostend at Anchor weekend, which attracts around 200.000 visitors to the city every year, several taxi companies in Ostend stop work.

The maritime event, which lasts four days, is at risk of being affected by longer waiting times for taxi services. The strike is a response to the lack of respect and poor communication with the city council, according to the taxi companies involved.

Hassib Ghosi, a 25-year-old taxi driver from the Anker taxi company, expressed his frustrations in a Verkaring to Het Nieuwsblad. “The last meeting was two years ago,” he says. The drivers are demanding, among other things, a broader plan for locations closer to the station, but communication with the city is difficult. “Things go wrong, especially when applying for permits or when making changes to routes during events. The police are often unaware of changes, resulting in unnecessary fines for us.”

In addition, Ghosi complains about technical problems with the taximeter software, which lead to fines due to incorrect settings. “Ostend is the only city where taxis are not allowed to drive on tram and bus lanes. This makes our job a lot harder,” he adds. Despite several attempts to enter into dialogue with the city council, a solution has not been found. “We have no choice but to stop working to send a signal. If no solutions are found, we will take harder action," Ghosi concludes.

Hina Bhatti, responsible alderman of Open VLD, reacted with surprise to the strike and the allegations. “There is indeed perfect communication between my cabinet and the taxi companies,” she stated. “All questions from the sector are answered. I know that there was dissatisfaction about the temporary positions provided by Ostend at Anchor. We have contacted the sector and a date has been set for consultation at the beginning of June to listen to the concerns.”

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Photo: © Pitane Blue - The location at Marie-Joséplein is too small, which means they regularly receive fines.

The situation has led to a lot of unrest among both taxi drivers and event visitors. The city council claims a date has been set for consultation, but drivers say little action has been taken so far. The drivers emphasize the need for better cooperation and more understanding from the municipality for their working conditions, especially during busy events such as Oostende voor Anker.

One of the main demands of taxi drivers is a permanent position closer to the station, which would be a great improvement for both them and their customers. In addition, they are asking for taxis to be allowed on tram and bus lanes, something that is possible in other cities and would make their work considerably easier.

The conflict between the taxi companies and the city council does not appear to have been resolved for the time being. The taxi drivers have made it clear that they are ready to take further action if their demands are not heard. In the meantime, it remains to be seen how the situation will develop further and what steps the city council will take to find a solution.

The strike comes at a particularly unfavorable time, as... Ostend for Anchor one of the most important events of the year for the city. The event attracts thousands of visitors from within and outside the city, which normally creates a high demand for taxi services. The strike could therefore not only affect taxi drivers, but also visitors and the city itself.

With a view to the future, the taxi drivers hope for constructive discussions and better cooperation with the city council. “We just want to be able to do our work without unnecessary obstacles,” Hassib said. “Hopefully we can quickly find a solution that works for everyone.”

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