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Taxi drivers strike in Spanish cities over rise of Uber and Cabify

Stoppages in the capital expected between 6am and 6pm, while in Barcelona the disruption will last 24 hours

Taxi drivers throughout Spain are staging strike action today to protest against the growing presence of app-based transport platforms such as Uber and Cabify. The stoppage has hit Madrid hardest, where drivers are staging a 12-hour stoppage, which started at 6am.

The near-empty taxi rank at the Sants train station in Barcelona today.
The near-empty taxi rank at the Sants train station in Barcelona today. EL PAÍS

In Barcelona, the strike is due to last 24 hours. In other cities, such as Valencia, drivers walked off the job for two hours this morning.

A march is planned in central Madrid for midday, with taxi drivers descending on the capital from all over Spain.

This is the second strike by taxi drivers in Spain this year.

A march is planned in central Madrid for midday, with taxi drivers descending on the capital from all over Spain

In late 2014, a Spanish court ordered Uber to stop operations in the country after a complaint from a taxi association that came in the wake of numerous protests from the sector. However in mid-2015, the firm returned to Barcelona operating as a food-delivery service known as Uber Eats.

In March 2016, Uber made a comeback in the Spanish capital in the form of UberX, which sees users put in touch with professional drivers holding passenger transport vehicle (VTC) licenses, which fall under different regulations from the taxi sector.

Among the complaints of the taxi sector is the practice of VTC drivers picking up passengers in contravention of the rules. By law, such vehicles can only collect clients who have booked them previously. “They make clandestine stops, near busy areas, with the app activated so that a vehicle will appear close to possible customers,” says Fedetaxi. But Cabify and Uber deny such practices. “Before we used to have to go back to the base after finishing a service, but now we are allowed to stop near the destination of the last customer,” explains an Uber driver.

The Spanish Taxi Federation (Fedetaxi) has called for the creation of a publicly run digital platform that would allow customers to book a taxi anywhere in Spain, along with public-private funding to help drivers leave the profession and retrain.

The ideas, outlined in a document called “Proposals in favor of the Public Taxi Service in Spain,” will be presented to Congress after Tuesday’s march in central Madrid.

Fedetaxi says a publicly owned digital platform would improve “the quality and competitiveness” of Spain’s taxi service and would be focused on tourism as a strategic sector.”

Spanish news agency EFE reports that center-right political party Ciudadanos has proposed convening a “negotiation table” between taxi drivers and companies such as Uber and Cabify, “so they can reach agreement” to resolve the ongoing dispute.

“We need to define rules that are the same for all,” said Ignacio Aguado, Ciudadanos’ spokesman at Madrid City Hall.

“We support the new business models,” said Aguado, adding that his party would not “close the door on those people who want to do create new businesses.”

English version by Nick Lyne.

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