At least three taxi drivers have been arrested since early Saturday morning in Madrid in connection with acts of violence against drivers who work for ride-hailing companies like Uber and Cabify, police sources said.
The police are investigating over 60 complaints filed by drivers who work for these ride-hailing firms under VTC (chauffeured transportation vehicle) licenses. Their growing presence in Spain has fueled a conflict with official taxi drivers, who consider them to be unfair competition.
Representatives for Unauto, the industry association that brings together ride-hailing companies, have asked the police for extra security after some of their drivers were the target of physical intimidation and damage to their vehicles. Uber and Cabify drivers told this newspaper that they were pelted with rocks and eggs during their night shifts, particularly near the Santiago Bernabéu soccer stadium on Paseo de Castellana.
The taxi sector has been on strike since Saturday to demand enforcement of regulations establishing a 1-30 ratio of VTC licenses versus taxi licenses. Major thoroughfares in Madrid and Barcelona have been blocked by parked taxicabs as drivers await the outcome of a Wednesday meeting between national and regional authorities to discuss the matter. The meeting is scheduled to begin at 6.30pm.
“Once the meeting ends, there will be a [taxi] sector assembly at around 10pm to see what steps to take next,” said the taxi association Élite Taxi Madrid in its Twitter account.
Speaking in Valencia, Public Works Minister José Luis Ábalos said that the government will be “quite inflexible about guaranteeing peaceful coexistence.”
“I want to call on people to maintain respect for the rules,” he added. “And those who perform a public service have to be consistent with that role, which others do not have. They evidently have a greater responsibility.”
On Tuesday, taxi drivers in Barcelona decided to provide a minimum service for free for as long as the strike continues, as “a gesture” to citizens. The protests come during peak tourist season in Spain, where thousands of passengers and tourists have been affected by the stoppages and road blocks.
Government delegates have already met with taxi and VTC representatives to hear their demands.
English version by Susana Urra.