Madrid taxi strike called off… for now

Madrid’s taxi drivers have voted to call off the strike bringing an end to a 16 day conflict that has at times, brought the capital’s streets to a standstill.

Madrid taxi strike called off... for now
Strikeing taxis bring the Castellana to a standstill. Photo: AFP

Despite not winning any concessions in the battle to demand regulations for private hire vehicles (VTC’s) such as Cabify and Uber, the drivers voted to stop the industrial action on Tuesday night, citing a loss of earnings.

The vote was close; 53.9 percent (4,233 drivers) voted in favour of ending the strike, and 44.9 percent voted to carry on.

Normal taxi service was officially resumed at 6am on Wednesday.

“The fact that we have been inactive for so many days and that many people have taken out loans to buy their licenses has had a large effect,” sources from the Professional Union of Taxis (6,000 licenses) told El Pais. “They couldn’t take much more of this.”

But Union representatives in Madrid said this was not the end of the fight, insisting the strike had demonstrated the unity and power of the drivers, which would help them continue in their demands.

“It is a long war, in which you can lose battles, but in the end I’m sure we can win,” Julio Sanz, head of the Taxi Federation union, told reporters.

Madrid’s regional government refused to make any concessions to the striking taxi drivers unlike in Barcelona, where local authorities passed new rules which severely restrict how they operate in the city.

This led to the Barcelona taxi drivers calling off their strike but also saw US ride-hailing service Uber and its main Spanish rival Cabify immediately suspending their services there.

The new rules mean customers of ride-hailing services will have to book a ride at least 15 minutes in advance.

The rules also allow local city authorities in Catalonia — if they deemed it necessary — to lengthen the pre-booking time to a maximum of one hour. 

Barcelona's left-wing city hall quickly said it would apply the one-hour delay.

READ MORE: Taxi drivers call off strike in Barcelona

Like their counterparts in many other European countries, Spain's taxi drivers say that ride-hailing apps like Uber and Cabify, have made it impossible to compete.

Madrid taxi drivers began an open-ended strike on January 21st making travel in the city difficult just as the tourism trade fair got underway at Ifema. 

At times, the protest stopped traffic completely on Madrid's main boulevard, the Castellana, and riot police had to be called in. 

But, the 16-day strike also had a positive effect, most notably reducing traffic in the city by 4.18 percent, according to a report in El Mundo

It also saw the number of passengers using the metro system in Madrid surge by 84,000 users during the fortnight of industrial action. 

IN PICS: Riot police sent in to clear taxi strike in Madrid

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