Uber and Cabify drivers poised for protest in Madrid

Uber and Cabify drivers are set to protest in Madrid on Thursday against a planned government decree they fear could threaten some 60,000 jobs, one of Spain's main unions said Wednesday.

Uber and Cabify drivers poised for protest in Madrid
Photo: kasto/Depositphotos

The protest takes place after both ride-hailing services offered one free trip per customer in Spain on Wednesday in an attempt to raise awareness of a months-long, sometimes violent row that has pitted them against taxis.   

The conflict mirrors other similar rows in European countries, as taxi drivers say Uber-style competitors are threatening their livelihoods, arguing for instance their licences are much more expensive than those for VTCs.   

Taxi federations have long called for the government to implement a ratio of one professional, non-taxi driver — otherwise known as VTC (Tourism Vehicle with Chauffeur) — for every 30 taxis.

Spain, however, is far off that mark.   

According to the public works ministry, which oversees transport in Spain, there is currently around one VTC for every six taxis.   

While details of the decree have not been unveiled, a ministry spokesman said the government aimed to “re-establish a balance.”   

But that could mean taking legal licences — and thus jobs — away, says Eduardo Martin, head of the Unauto VTC association that represents the sector.   

“It's like if we brought out a law now saying buildings over six floors high can no longer be built,” he says.

“What do we do with (already-existing) buildings of over six floors? We knock them down?”.

The UGT union taking part in Thursday's protest estimates any move to limit the number of VTCs could involve the loss of 60,000 direct or indirect jobs.   

The government decree is also expected to stipulate that regional governments must now regulate VTC licences rather than Madrid, just like they already do with taxis.

Martin said this could mean that cities take individual steps to limit the number of VTC licences for Uber-style services, now that the central government is no longer in charge.

Barcelona tried to do so earlier this year but a court suspended the ruling, leading to taxi strikes that paralysed major Spanish cities like Madrid or Barcelona marked by violence against VTC drivers.

READ MORE: Finally! Spanish taxi drivers call off strike