Barcelona taxi drivers end their protest after reaching an agreement to eliminate the new shifts

After two days of protests making Barcelona El Prat Airport being without cabs for several hours, taxi union representatives and the Metropolitan Taxi Institute – in charge of managing the sector – have agreed to eliminate the shift system and find another way to reduce the number of taxis on the streets. Taxi drivers have stopped all their protests and they will be using the previous system establishing two days of rest per week. The shift system had been implemented to better pair the availability of taxis to the real demand, which has decreased because of the recession. The system had been approved by Barcelona taxi drivers in a binding referendum. However, one week after its implementation, some of them protested stating that it had reduced their turnover.


January 9, 2013 11:58 PM

Barcelona (ACN).- After two days of protests making Barcelona El Prat Airport being without cabs for several hours, taxi union representatives and the Metropolitan Taxi Institute (IMT) – in charge of managing the sector – have agreed to eliminate the shift system, which has been in place for a week. Consequently, taxi drivers stopped all their protests and passengers arriving at Barcelona Airport can now get a cab as usual. The agreement now has to be approved by the IMT Board, which should meet in the next few hours and is expected to ratify the agreement. However, taxi drivers have not waited for this formal procedure and unilaterally they have decided that, as from 6 pm, they were no longer following the system of shifts. Now, an alternative solution will have to be found in order to reduce the number of taxis on the streets, as the number of taxis in Barcelona exceeds demand, due to the economic recession. In fact, the system of shifts had been approved via a binding referendum by the taxi drivers themselves, after weeks of talks with unions and the IMT. However, not even a week after the new system kicked off, a group of drivers mainly representing independent workers stated that with the new system – which was designed to help the sector – they were losing money and they organised the protests to force an immediate change. In fact, IMT managers lamented these protests, as the new system would have been evaluated anyway within the next days and they believe that “the bad image” of the protests, blocking Barcelona’s Airport, could have been avoided. Furthermore, they noted that the shift option had been previously negotiated with the unions and had “almost a 90%” support within the sector.

A small group of taxi drivers did not even wait an entire week after the implementation of the new system of shifts and decided to protest against it by blocking Barcelona El Prat Airport as from Monday at noon. The protest stopped on Monday late in the evening but started again and continued for all of Tuesday. On Monday they also blocked Barcelona Sants Station during the late afternoon. Almost immediately the IMT decided to move the meeting with the union representatives to evaluate the new system earlier, as it was initially scheduled for the 15th of January. The meeting took place on Wednesday and lasted for two hours. The IMT wanted to initially fine-tune the system but union representatives insisted on eliminating it, which was finally agreed on. Meanwhile, hundreds of taxi drivers were protesting at the doors of the IMT and they had blocked one highway accessing Barcelona, passing near the IMT building. Despite the fact that the IMT insisted on waiting for the official ratification of the agreement by its board, taxi drivers decided to strip off the stickers on the car doors indicating the shift number as from 6 pm. At the time, they announced they would no longer respect the shifts and they would work as they were doing 10 days ago, with total freedom of time but respecting two days of rest per week and with a limit on the number of taxis serving Barcelona Airport.

In fact, the shift system also wanted to limit the working hours of some taxi drivers during the day, as some of them work for 10, 12 or even 14 hours per day in order to increase their revenue. However, most of the time they circulate with the car empty and therefore costs increase. The new system set three different times for independent taxi drivers: a morning 10-hour shift, an afternoon 10-hour shift and a night 6-hour shift. Those working during the mornings could not work in the afternoons and vice-versa, while the nights were optional. Each month there was to be a change, following the license numbers, and those who had been working during the mornings would be working during the afternoons, and vice-versa. For taxi fleets, the shifts lasted 9.5 hours and they had to work either between 7am and 5pm or between 7pm and 5am. In addition, on the day the car is supposed to rest, they could also work between 12am and 5am.

The proposal to set shifts had been voted in a binding referendum by 36% of the taxi drivers who cast their vote, being the most popular option of the four alternatives proposed. After the vote, the IMT continued to negotiate with unions and slightly modified the initial proposal to come up with the aforementioned times. However, some taxi drivers did not accept this later modification and they stated that these modifications benefit large fleets and harm independent workers, who are willing to work extra hours.