Spanish Taxi Drivers End Strike Against Uber After Government Adds Restrictions

Spain will limit new licenses for ride-hailing vehicles.

Nissan

Spanish taxi drivers ended a six-day strike Wednesday after the government agreed to tighter restrictions on licenses for Uber and other ride-hailing companies, reports Reuters. Spain's taxi drivers have protested Uber multiple times over the past few years, and that tactic appears to be getting results.

Thousands of taxi drivers participated in the strike, blocking major city streets with their cabs, according to Reuters. Drivers believe ride-hailing services represent unfair competition because they operate under fewer regulations than taxi services. A representative of Uber and rival ride-hailing service Cabify told Reuters taxi drivers had attacked ride-hailing drivers. Spain's taxi association said it condemned all violence.

The Spanish government agreed to enact new legislation in September that will cap the number of licenses for ride-hailing vehicles at one license for every 30 taxi licenses. That will require Uber and Cabify to lay off some drivers. The ride-hailing companies currently have 9,000 licenses, compared to 70,000 for taxis—far from the 30:1 ratio specified by the new rules.

The dispute between Uber and Spanish taxi drivers goes at least as far back as 2014, when drivers in Madrid and Barcelona filed legal protests, arguing that Uber represented unfair competition. This initially led to some restrictions of Uber's operations, but the American company eventually bounced back, in part by using professional drivers rather than the nonprofessionals it relies on in many other markets. Taxi drivers protested Uber's resurgence with strikes in 2017.

Europe is more important to Uber now that the company has pulled out of China, Russia, and Southeast Asia. But Uber is in a more or less constant state of war with European taxi drivers and regulators. The company recently pulled out of Greece due to strict regulations but restarted operations in Finland after restrictions were loosened. It recently regained its London operating license, but taxi drivers in the British capital are mulling a class-action lawsuit against the company.

In the United States, New York City is considering a cap on the number of licenses for ride-hailing vehicles. The measure is being considered both to reduce congestion and level the playing field with taxis.