Covid-19 public health crisis leaves Barcelona taxi sector reeling

Drivers feel "unprotected" as they experience an 85% drop in earnings

A Barcelona taxi driver wearing a facemask (by Albert Cadanet)
A Barcelona taxi driver wearing a facemask (by Albert Cadanet) / ACN

ACN | Barcelona

March 25, 2020 12:55 PM

The taxi sector is yet another that has seen its business negatively impacted by the ongoing coronavirus public health crisis: journeys in Barcelona are down 95% and overall earnings have dropped a staggering 85% as drivers complain they do not feel protected by the government.

While the Institut Metropolità del Taxi (IMET) – the public organization that manages taxi services in the Barcelona metropolitan area – has issued a set of guidelines on, for example, limiting the number of people in vehicles as well as the number of taxis working on any given day, they are not binding.

According to Cesc Roca, a driver for Elite Taxis, IMET should have enforced rules for drivers rather than providing them with suggestions as that will limit their ability to demonstrate the 75% income loss needed to receive Spanish government benefits for self-employed workers. Around 90% of taxi drivers in the Barcelona area are self-employed.

"Without a mandatory regulation, we cannot demonstrate that our earnings have dropped by over 75% because whether we work or not is up to us," Roca explains.  

Health risks of job

Barcelona's taxi sector also complains they have not been provided with protective gear to continue carrying out their work safely, and all of the drivers the Catalan News Agency spoke to claimed that at least 3 in 4 journeys these days involved taking clients to medical centers.

"We must act of our own accord – those of us who are able to do wear gloves and facemasks, but authorities have not developed health protocols telling us how we should proceed given the situation we are facing," says Roca.

On-demand ride-hailing services also affected

Similarly, divers for on-demand ride-hailing services have also seen their livelihoods severely affected by the crisis in terms of earnings loss and a lack of health and safety measures.

Josep Maria Goñi, who is at the head of the Unauto on-demand ride-hailing business association, argues that the measures put forth by the Spanish government are "insufficient" as those who work in his sector "will not receive any benefits."

According to Unauto, Pedro Sánchez's cabinet did not heed any of their proposals to avoid the proliferation of temporary redundancy schemes, which have already affected a number of unnamed companies in the sector.