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Taxi drivers’ strike in Malaga over ride sharing apps descends into violence

Regional government of Andalusia mediates in dispute after attack on VTC head

Taxi drivers in Malaga are awaiting the outcome of a meeting this Wednesday with Felipe López, the head of the public works department in the regional government of Andalusia, to decide whether to continue the strike they began on Sunday, during the city's annual festivities, in protest against the presence of unlicensed vehicles picking up fares.

Screen capture from the video showing the attack on Eduardo Martín.
Screen capture from the video showing the attack on Eduardo Martín.

The conflict has turned violent, with attacks on drivers and cars operating under passenger transport vehicle (VTC) licenses, which are used by services like Cabify as an alternative to more expensive official taxi licenses. Video footage also captured an attack on Monday against Eduardo Martín, president of Unauto VTC, the largest organization representing VTC drivers in Spain.

In a statement yesterday, Martín said he was punched and kicked in the face and that some of the attackers even pursued him to the hospital he went to for treatment. In the statement, he alleged that the taxi drivers tried to silence him “by force,” and he called the situation of VTC drivers “unsustainable” in light of “the spread of attacks and aggression throughout Spain.” He further asserted that the taxi drivers are no longer a minority group, but instead a radical faction that “is gaining more and more followers.”

One Cabify driver alleges that a group of taxi drivers insulted him, threatened to kill him and egged his car

The attack on Martín follows others against three Cabify drivers and 15 vehicles in the city, which the company denounced on Sunday. In a report seen by EL PAÍS, a Cabify driver alleged that he was pursued by four taxis occupied by several people who insulted and threatened to kill him and then threw eggs at him. To get away, he said he had to run traffic lights and drive onto the sidewalk. By his account, when he was finally forced to stop, his attackers, who he described as “senseless,” pounded  his car and punctured one of his tires.

The general director of Cabify in Spain, Mariano Silveyra, insisted on Tuesday that the company “will not be leaving Malaga.”

Demands by taxi drivers at Wednesday’s meeting will include a lower ratio of VTC cars to taxis

But local taxi drivers accuse Cabify of unfair competition and demanded that it withdraw the 35 additional cars it sent to the city from Madrid to reinforce its operations during the annual summer fair. Awaiting the meeting today, the Unified Association of Taxi Drivers in Malaga (Aumat) decided to continue the strike through Tuesday. “Depending on the outcome” of that meeting, “things may change,” José Royón, president of Aumat, said.

Royón listed some of the demands he will be making at the meeting, which include a ratio of one VTC driver for every 30 taxis, rather than “the one for every five as we have now in Malaga.” He also wants companies that buy VTC licenses to start using them immediately, rather than sitting on them and speculating, as many currently do.

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.

In May of this year, taxi drivers went on strike again to protest the growing presence of VTC drivers and the use of what they claimed were unfair practices.

English version by Henry Hahn.

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