French users are criticizing striking taxi drivers on social media. The drivers have taken to the streets for the second time in six months, blocking roads and airports, to protest against ride-sharing app Uber.
This morning, amid generalised protests by public sector workers, taxi drivers were also staging a strike to protest against ride-sharing app Uber, which allows users to seek out private drivers, bypassing traditional services. French taxis consider it unfair competition and so in Paris, drivers are restricting access to both of the city’s airports, Orly and Charles de Gaulle, while also blocking a major intersection in the west of the French capital, the Maillot gate.
French taxis have a reputation for rudeness and are generally considered to be both expensive and frequently unavailable, earning them little sympathy from the French public. On social media, users are openly mocking them and generally sympathising with Uber.
"No one has ever seen a baker give people the finger through their window. For taxi drivers, this is a normal gesture," joked Antoine Adam.
Christian Bdj from Paris imagined what a brainstorming session by taxi drivers would look like: "What should we do to get clients back? How about going on strike, burning stuff and blocking the roads? Let’s go!"
User Alexandre summed up the misunderstanding between taxis and much of the rest of the country: "So, taxis attack the population (their clients) and they hope we stop using Uber? Ok."
The government is also being criticized online. It is accused of being too indulgent with the periodically violent taxi drivers. Paris has failed to find a compromise between both sides of a conflict that has been dragging on for close to a year and, to some of the public’s dismay, it has periodically sided with taxis.
Last July the executive banned Uberpop, an ofshoot of Uber’s original service that allowed private individuals to use their personal cars for occasional paid rides. Today, French Prime Minister Manuel Valls met with representatives of the drivers, later announcing he would nominate a mediator to handle the dispute and that the private-hire sector would be watched more closely. Twitter users had a few words for their politicians.
Guillame C lambasted his government for its willingness to sit down with taxi drivers despite the instances of violence they are accused of: "I too will set Paris on fire, I have something to ask [Valls]."
User LustuCrew expressed anger at the driver's methods, which he thinks are typical of French politics: "Why is it necessary to burn or break things to be able to have a meeting with the French government?"
Yet, even int he midst of an outpouring of anger against them, taxi drivers still had supporters online. They did not fail to remind the web that, as the French press had pointed out last year, Uber had not paid any taxes in France in 2014, while also remaining unaffected by many of the regulatory hurdles taxis have to abide by, such as high insurance and licensing costs.
User Le Magnifique explained he was surprised at the sight of all the vitriol thrown at taxis: "When you see a society take down its taxis that pay fees and taxes and support Uber’s fiscal evaders…"
The Paris-based pro-taxi account Formateur Taxis says he has had "enough of idiots that do not want to hear that competition must follow the rules!"
This is the second protest organised by taxi drivers over the issue of competition with Uber in under a year. The last one, held in July last year, was marked by numerous and violent clashes between taxis, Uber drivers and the police.