6th June 2016

It’s Cabbies vs Uber at Euro 2016 in France!

As the first match in the 2016 UEFA European Championship gets ready to kick-off, it looks as though there’s going to be a lot commotion off the pitch as well as on-pitch. Fans from across the continent will descend on major cities across France over the next month to cheer on their national teams, but that’s provided they can even get inside the stadium first!

It’s been reported that taxi driver unions across France may be threatening to create traffic blockages over the next four weeks, apparently as a protest against the use of alternatives to traditional licensed taxis. This appears to be targeted mainly towards private services accessed via smartphones or websites, with Uber as the primary focus.

Previous tensions

Uber’s received a great deal of criticism after expanding from the US to European markets, and nowhere has the frustration of cabbies been felt more than France. After launching in Paris in 2011, the service has expanded to main cities across the country, but has never been able to shake off its initial frosty reception from native cabbies.

Despite the French government outlawing the San Francisco-based service over safety concerns in 2014, the company has since managed to expand its model in the country with additional apps providing more bespoke services. Named UberPop, this spin-off service allows users to arrange ride-shares in private cars, causing upset among traditional taxi drivers.

In the last year, strikes and protests have taken place across Paris, Marseille and more recently in Toulouse this April. Some of the protests have even turned to violence, particularly last June which ultimately led to the UberPop service being shut down shortly afterwards.

“Taking the tournament hostage”

The president of the union Taxis of France, Ibrahima Sylla, revealed to radio broadcaster France Info that mass strike action during the Euro 2016 tournament may be necessary to tackle unregulated drivers, known locally at VTCs (véhicule de tourisme avec chauffeurs, or chauffeured vehicles).

Mr. Sylla suggested “removing the status of VTCs and incorporate them among traditional taxis (as) the two trades do the same work.” He stated that France’s 60,000 regulated taxi drivers are not prepared to give up their professions, adding “when the Euro championship come along, we will not hesitate to take the tournament hostage and block all football matches” if needs be.

If that’s the case, the cabbies could well have an effect on visitor numbers at various matches over the course of Euro 2016. Considering their goal is to get the French government to enforce stricter measures on non-regulated “chauffeur” services, they may just succeed in getting their message across.

This summer’s tournament has already faced scrutiny following various attacks in Paris last year. French officials will want to prove to the world that they can successfully pull off a competition on this scale. With potential strike action from the country’s cabbies on their hands, it’ll be interesting to see if any further changes are made to French laws to control regulation on licensed taxis and the alternative private services.

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