Taxi drivers fight Uber and paralyze Spain with strike | News | DW | 31.07.2018
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Taxi drivers fight Uber and paralyze Spain with strike

Spanish taxi associations have demanded stricter enforcement of a law that limits the issuing of new licenses to Uber and Cabify. Representatives from the ride-sharing apps say the taxis just want to keep a "monopoly."

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Spain's taxi drivers challenge Uber

Talks between the Spanish government and representatives of taxi associations on Monday failed to end a nationwide taxi strike that is wreaking transportation havoc in Spain's major cities in the middle of the busy tourist season.

At issue for the taxi associations is the rise of alternative taxi services such as Uber and Cabify, so-called Tourism Vehicles with Chauffeur (VTC), but also the enforcement of existing laws to regulate them.

The strike began in Barcelona after the Spanish government tried to challenge a ruling by the city's authorities that sought to limit the number of licenses for VTCs. Hundreds of black and yellow taxis parked on the Gran Via, one of the city's main roads, with drivers camping out, sleeping on mattresses on the ground, in tents or in their taxis.

Read more: Share economy: Nearly four-in-ten Germans use online services

Taxis in Madrid joined the strike over the weekend. Strikes or partial labor stoppages have also been called in cities like Valencia, Zaragoza, Bilbao and Seville.

Black and yellow taxis block a road in Barcelona (picture-alliance/Zumapress/P. Freire)

Blocked: Taxis parked in the middle of a Barcelona street on July 28 as part of the protests

Taxi drivers' demands

Taxi associations argue that their licenses are much more expensive than those for VTCs and they want the authorities to strictly enforce a 2013 law that mandates 30 taxi licenses for each VTC. They argue that, at present, only five traditional taxis for every VTC exist, pointing to the fact that the law is being skirted.

Taxi unions are also demanding the enforcement of the rule that says VTCs must return to their bases of operation after providing a service and not allow them to roam or park in search of new customers. Cab drivers want these rules to be extended and strictly enforced in all autonomous regions of Spain.

According to Spanish newspaper El Pais, the government committed to enforcing the 30-to-1 rule, but for the autonomous regions, it only offered to enable them to regulate taxi licenses on their own. The taxi associations found this to be insufficient.

Additionally, the Spanish government did not agree to the taxi associations' demand to correct the growth of VTC licenses by revoking them, to bring the current ratio back to 30-to-1.

Read more: How to regulate Uber-style apps and taxis

VTCs: taxis are 'violent people'

VTC association Unauto have criticised traditional taxis and the way they have sought to enforce what they see as "a monopoly."  

"We sincerely hope that the state does not give in to blackmail from violent people," said Unauto, in reference to attacks on VTCs in Barcelona perpetrated by angry taxi drivers, that Unauto claims destroyed 100 cars.

VTC representatives will have a chance to meet with the Spanish government on Tuesday, to have their arguments heard.

Uber has faced protests, bans and restrictions around the world and especially in Europe, as it has challenged traditional taxi operators.

jcg/se (dpa, AFP, EFE)

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