Sat. Feb 16th, 2019

Only Madrid (and perhaps Andalusia) resist the onslaught of taxi drivers against Uber and Cabify | Economy

Only Madrid (and perhaps Andalusia) resist the onslaught of taxi drivers against Uber and Cabify | Economy


The Convocation of the indefinite strike by taxi drivers in Madrid last Wednesday After 16 days of work stoppages, it has been a turning point in the fierce conflict that keeps the taxi sector with the companies of Concerted transport vehicles (VTC) They use applications like Cabify and Uber.

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The Community of Madrid, which concentrates half (49.8%) of the VTC in Spain with 6,632 licenses, has been the only autonomous administration that has clearly resisted the pressures of the taxi, and has not legislated to restrict the activity of this new form of mobility that has the mobile as its main ally.

On the other side, the Generalitat de Catalunya has decided unambiguously to defend the "anti-competitive interests" of taxi drivers, as qualified by the Competition Authority, through a decree-law that imposes the pre-contracting of the VTC with at least 15 minutes in advance, which in practice has meant the disappearance of a service whose main advantage is immediacy since 98.5% of its trips are made with times less than that quarter hour of waiting.

The Basque Government has not been slow in following the same steps approving legislation very similar to the Catalan one, and the executives of Valencia and Aragón and the Balearic Islands prepare almost identical regulations to expel the VTC. The unknown now is knowing what the new Andalusian government of PP and Ciudadanos will do that, as in other matters, moves in ambiguity and has not defined its position.

The conflict has been politicized openly as demonstrated by the demonstrations of both parties in Madrid: the taxi drivers concentrating in front of the headquarters of the PP, and the drivers of VTC against those of the PSOE and Podemos. That politicization has been transferred to legislation. In general, governments dominated by nationalists or socialists have been those who have collected the glove of the decree of the Ministry of Public Works that transferred the jurisdiction of the regulations on VTC to the autonomous communities, and have approved such restrictive rules that, in practice, suppose a veto to the activity of these vehicles.

On the contrary, the communities governed by the PP have rejected this competition, although with exceptions such as Galicia. The government of Alberto Núñez Feijóo has also sided with the taxi drivers and is studying the "legal viability" of forcing the VTC to have to be booked at least three hours in advance, despite the scarce implantation of these vehicles in the region.

Due to this politicization, the autonomic and municipal elections of next May 26 can suppose a radical change in the evolution. This is the legislative panorama in the autonomous communities where the VTCs are implanted

Catalonia

The Catalan Government has approved a decree-law that establishes that VTC vehicles must set a pre-contract period of at least 15 minutes, which can be extended up to one hour by the different town halls. It also introduces the elimination of geolocation that can only be activated once the user has contracted the service and measures to prevent vehicles from being kept empty as taxis do.

A passenger walks through the empty VTC car park at the Barcelona airport.
A passenger walks through the empty VTC car park at the Barcelona airport. REUTERS

Uber and Cabify announced that they stopped providing service in the city since February 1, coinciding with the entry into force of the decree. The companies that own the licenses as Vector Ronda submitted employment regulation files for its 3,500 workers, in the largest ERE of the last 40 years in the region.

In addition, companies are already preparing the legal battle. They are going to appeal the decree of the Govern before the Superior Court of Justice of Catalonia, and also they will request before the ordinary courts compensations by damages and losses by 1,100 million euros. They do not even rule out criminal proceedings against President Quim Torra and nine members of his government.

Madrid

At the beginning of the conflict, the Government of the popular Angel Garrido was favorable to the thesis of the taxi drivers, and agreed with the City Council of the capital headed by Manuela Carmena a draft of regulations that established the concept of "space precontracting" and not temporary of these cars. Instead of requesting the service in advance, the requested vehicle and the traveler must be at a minimum distance of 300 or 500 meters.

This peculiar condition was rejected even by taxi drivers, that radicalized their position with cuts of streets (they had to be evicted from the Paseo de la Castellana) and demonstrations in front of the headquarters of the regional government and the PP. Garrido then refused to "legislate to make disappear" a sector of the VTC and the 3,000 workers he employs, and he did not even accept the taxi drivers' last proposal to let the town hall of Carmena go - favorable to his thesis - the person in charge of legislating.

The taxi drivers voted to lift the strike on the 6th and they were summoned after the elections of May 26 to restart their mobilizations with the new regional government that comes out of the polls. In the meantime, and in the absence of that legislation on VTC, the Government of Garrido has already prepared the new taxi regulations, with which it tries to compensate the sector by allowing municipalities to launch plans for the redemption (repurchase) of licenses, to adapt supply and demand. A kind of fixed price is also established by introducing the possibility that "the previously contracted services can be performed with hiring per seat and individual payment ", and that the rates of the taximeter have the character of maximums so that the user can know the price of the service before its realization.

Valencia

Protest of taxi drivers on Colón street in Valencia.
Protest of taxi drivers on Colón street in Valencia.

The Socialist Government of the Generalitat Valenciana, supported by nationalists and Podemos, has replicated Catalan regulations without dissimulation. It already has a regulation ready that introduces a minimum period of 15 minutes between the moment of requesting the service and its beginning, a period that the municipalities may increase in their urban area if they consider it necessary. It also prohibits geolocation, requires that the VTC have to be in garages or parking when they are not busy and introduces measures such as vehicles must be less than 10 years old and in the case of being replaced by ecological cars.

The Employer Unauto has already warned that when this rule is approved will mean the suspension of service of 323 Uber and Cabif operating in the region, and the disappearance of 500 jobs, as well as the request for compensation to the Administration as indicated by the president of the association in the Valencian Community, Ricardo González.

But unlike Catalonia, the Government of Ximo Puig has a calendar problem. You must send the draft of the decree to all those involved and then wait for the opinion of the General Law of the Generalitat, so that the plenary session of the Consell can approve it. From there, it will pass for approval to Las Cortes but the dissolution of the chamber is scheduled for the first week of April, so the deadlines are very tight. If it does not give time, it would have to be the Permanent Deputation of the chamber that validated the decree-law, although some jurists doubt that this body can approve the rule since its function is to attend only very urgent measures.

Andalusia

A taxi stop in Seville.
A taxi stop in Seville.

The new Andalusian Government coalition between the PP and C's continues hesitant to give a solution to the conflict. The Minister of Public Works, Marifrán Carazo, has limited herself to offering the taxi "dialogue and collaboration to find its balance with the VTC". In the absence of a specific proposal, it has created a working group with all the sectors involved that will meet on February 14.

The Andalusian Executive will not have it easy. City councils in cities such as Seville, Granada or Cordoba, all governed by the PSOE with the support of Podemos / IU, are in favor of restricting the VTC, which has 1,869 licenses in the region. The employer has set the Seville city council that has agreed with the main associations of taxi drivers to ask the Board that the future regulation of the VTC subject their services to a pre-contract between 30 and 60 minutes and it is mandatory to return to base after each bearing. Some municipalities threaten even to rebel if these requests are not addressed.

Balearics

The Department of Mobility of the Balearic Islands is finalizing a decree with which it pretends that the VTC, that have only 214 licenses in the islands, have to be hired with an hour of advance and through an agency. It is expected that the decree will be approved before the end of the current term.

In addition, the Administration will contest the creation of a future mobile application that will allow the customer to claim a taxi through the app and view the location of the car that comes to pick it up. The cost will be borne by the taxpayer, not the taxi drivers.

Basque Country

The Basque Government will give the green light to a regulation that will force to contract the VTC (currently 95 vehicles) with at least one hour in advance, except in "special circumstances" such as emergencies, mutual accident and roadside assistance, among other assumptions. VTCs may not circulate on public roads in search of travelers and the geolocation of vehicles will only be known by the company and never by customers.

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