• Protests over Supreme Court go-ahead to thousands of so-called VTC licenses
• Taxis claim unfair competition from excessive number of Uber, Cabify vehicles
Thousands of licensed taxi drivers across Spain staged a 24-hour work stoppage Wednesday to protest the planned issue of up to 10,000 low-cost permits to drivers working mostly for private taxi services Uber and Cabify, far in excess of strict limits placed on permits for so-called VTCs (Vehículos Turismo con Conductor) set by a national law passed in 2013.
As many as 20,000 licensed taxistas marched in protest from Madrid’s Plaza Neptuno toward Congress, where they were stopped by police barricades, while taxis in Madrid, Barcelona, Valencia and other cities nationwide parked their cabs and refused to provide taxi service to thousands of stranded commuters. The daylong stoppage, called by the Fedetaxi national federation of taxi drivers, Antaxi (Asociación Nacional del Taxi) and various regional taxi associations, could be extended as drivers prepare to vote Monday on whether or not to go on indefinite strike over the VTC licenses.
Behind the protests is a November ruling by Spain’s Tribunal Supremo (Supreme Court) overturning a Madrid lower court verdict blocking the issue of 80 permits to drivers of private VTCs. Legislation passed in 2013 limits the number of VTCs to one for ever 30 licensed taxis, but the Supreme Court said in its ruling that thousands of VTC drivers, mostly affiliated with the U.S.-based Uber or Madrid-based Cabify services, must be granted VTC licenses in the coming months because they had filed applications during the two year-window it took for regulations governing the 2013 law to be put in place.
According to Spain’s national Ministry of Public Works, Spain has already far surpassed the established limit and has reached a ratio of 10-to-1, with 6,421 licensed VTCs and 64,429 licensed taxis currently circulating nationwide. The protesting taxi drivers claim unfair competition from Uber and Cabify drivers, citing the low cost of about 36 euros for a VTC permit versus 150,000 euros in driver training, insurance, licensing and other fees required to drive a regular taxi.