Spanish Taxi Drivers Striking Against Uber

Taxi drivers in three Spanish cities are striking to protest ride-sharing services.

Uber may have just won a major victory in Austin, Texas, but it continues to face stiff opposition from taxi drivers and regulators in other parts of the world. Taxi drivers in Spain are going on strike today to protest what they view as unfair competition from ride-sharing services, according to TechCrunch.

The strike involves drivers in Barcelona, Madrid, and Valencia. The Barcelona drivers are staging a 24-hour strike, and will take their taxis to Madrid to participate in a demonstration there. A shorter strike in Valencia is also reportedly planned. 

This is the second major anti-Uber protest by Spanish taxi drivers. Two more strikes are planned for July, and the Barcelona taxi association isn’t ruling out an indefinite strike, according to Euro Weekly.

Uber and Spanish taxi drivers have been fighting since 2014. That year, Madrid taxi drivers filed a legal protest that led a judge to ban Uber from the Spanish capital; drivers in Barcelona filed a similar protest that is now being reviewed by the European Court of Justice, the European Union’s highest court. Both protests claimed Uber represented unfair competition, because it is not subject to the same regulations as taxi companies.

In 2015, the Barcelona city government changed laws to effectively block Uber from operating in the city. Uber returned to Spain in a limited capacity last year, relaunching ride sharing in Madrid with professionally-licensed drivers only and refusing to use non-professional drivers, which make up the majority of its workforce in other markets. (UberPool isn’t available in Spain, either.)

Since its return to Spain, Uber has focused more on lobbying in order to gain favorable regulations. It’s currently attempting to overturn a rule that limits licenses for private hire vehicles to one for every 30 taxis—which is reportedly one of the reasons for the taxi-driver strike. 

Lobbying worked well for Uber in Texas, where the state legislature recently overturned rules set by the Austin city government that Uber felt were too restrictive. But lobbying may only get Uber so far. In response to the original 2014 complaint by Barcelona taxi drivers, the European Court of Justice is now considering whether the company should be regulated like other transportation services, rather than as a middleman between drivers and passengers. That would subject Uber to the same rules as taxi companies, which would it erode the company’s competitive advantage—and could set a precedent for stricter regulation of ride sharing in other regions.