Barcelona center blocked as taxi strike enters fifth day
Catalan government to meet with union leaders and ride-hailing associations
Barcelona's city center remained blocked by taxis on Tuesday as the drivers' strike to demand tougher regulation of ride-hailing firms, such as Uber and Cabify, enters its fifth day.
Cab drivers marched from Plaça Catalunya to the Catalan government Territory Department, where taxi union leaders are expected to meet with minister Damià Calvet at 4 pm.
The largest taxi union's spokesman, Alberto ‘Tito’ Álvarez, has rejected sitting at the negotiation table with representatives from Uber and Cabify. "There’s nothing for us to negotiate with them," he said.
After five days of protests, including clashes with police and attacks on ride-hailing vehicles, taxi drivers are keeping up the pressure.
"If the positions from both sides are so far apart, we might have to ask Spain to put forward new laws"
Damià Calvet · Catalan territory minister
Drivers took to the streets on Monday wearing yellow vests—in reference to the protest movement that has plagued France’s president Emmanuel Macron. Álvarez says taxi drivers are in contact with the French movement's leaders, opening the door to blocking Catalonia’s border with France, one of the main points connecting Spain with the rest of Europe.
A meeting between Álvarez and Calvet on Monday ended without much progress. A solution seems unlikely to be reached on Tuesday.
Protests started after the Catalan government proposed to pass a law forcing Cabify and Uber users to book their rides at least 15 minutes in advance. Taxi drivers see it as insufficient and demand a longer booking period.
Calvet takes on cab drivers
In an interview with Catalan radio, Calvet accused taxi drivers of "using violence to blackmail," and warned them that public opinion in Catalonia is not behind them.
Calvet blamed Spain for passing laws that leave the conflict unresolved: "If the positions from both sides are so far apart, we might have to ask Spain to put forward new laws."
Drivers using "mafia-style" tactics
The president of Catalonia’s Unauto ride-hailing association also took taxi drivers to task for using violence to protest. "There is a fortunately small but violent group of taxi drivers, who are doing a lot of damage not only to us but also to their colleagues, who are using mafia-style tactics to achieve their economic goals," said Josep Maria Goñi.