Gig Economy Project – Carlos Rodríguez: Once again, the taxi is under attack in Madrid

Carlos Rodríguez, community manager at Elite Taxi Association Barcelona and vice-president of the Taxi Project 2.0, says the Community of Madrid’s latest manoeuvre to protect the interests of ridehail platforms will be at the expense of citizens and the environment, as well as the taxi, and must be stopped.

Leer en Español aquí.

Picture: Javier Sánchez Salcedo

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ON Wednesday [4 May], without prior warning, the government of the Community of Madrid, presided over by Isabel Díaz Ayuso’s right-wing PP, officially announced the approval of the modification of the law for the organisation of land transport in the Community of Madrid (Law 20/1998). This law will enable private hire drivers (VTC) to continue operating from October onwards, the same month in which the Ábalos decree (Law 13/2018) is applied. The Ábalos decree is a state-level regulation by which these types of vehicles must stop operating for urban journeys. 

Thus, private hire vehicles will continue to circulate as they have done until now, despite the fact that the Spanish Government has already compensated them for being withdrawn due to mobility and sustainability issues. In other words, the Community of Madrid, governed by the PP (a conservative party, liberal on some issues and mired in corruption scandals), has just created a regional law to avoid complying with a national law, thus maintaining thousands of VTC vehicles that should be withdrawn from circulation, with the aim of benefiting several companies and investors (including Uber, Cabify and Bolt, which have seen the value of their authorisations rise by more than 30% after the first announcement of the modification).

This will seriously harm both the taxi sector in particular and the rest of the transport sector in general (including public services such as city buses or the metro), which will be affected by thousands of vehicles from these companies occupying an increasingly limited space in our cities, where pollution is affecting more and more people every day and where, for example, taxis are limited by the number of inhabitants in the city. As if that were not enough, we are talking about the fact that this law for VTC vehicles has been approved without developing any sanctioning regime, i.e. the Community of Madrid intends to allow thousands of Uber and Cabify vehicles to circulate illegally, in breach of the state decree, and to do so without norms and without rules. 

To put this into context, a sanctioning regime was created by the Spanish coalition government for which, just this week, it has been announced that the penalties for VTC vehicles have increased by 42% in 2021 compared to the previous year. And finally, the PP Madrid has also failed to take action on the thousands of complaints that are published daily on social networks by customers of these services, in which they are forced to sign clauses that we at Taxi Project can demonstrate are clearly abusive and which we have denounced through a complaint to the Directorate General of Consumer Affairs of the Community of Madrid, which has already opened an investigation against Uber and Cabify to clarify the facts and act accordingly.

READ MORE: Uber and Cabify violate the rights of users – and we have the evidence

We have to recognise that from Taxi Project we are not surprised by all these moves on the part of Isabel Díaz Ayuso’s government. From the outset, and in view of the fact that time is running out for the big businessmen and investors of the VTCs, she is using public institutions to create laws for their benefit and at the expense of the people and the environment. 

For this reason, we have already filed a complaint with the Ombudsman (the body responsible for monitoring the various administrations of the Spanish state) for not taking into account our allegations to the draft bill, which we consider to be an infringement of the administrative procedure (law 39/2015) and for which we have requested that this amendment be declared null and void. Also, the Professional Taxi Federation of Madrid (the majority association in the capital, made up of more than 6000 taxi drivers) has also warned that it is going to sue the president of the Community of Madrid, Isabel Díaz Ayuso, for ‘prevarication’, as she has drafted a regional law which is an attempt to infringe upon the national law.

This action is another of many, such as the ‘Omnibus law’ by which the same PP of the Community of Madrid intends to privatise public services, such as health. They have been awarding contracts to companies close to the president, causing staff cuts and deficient services and try to favour large construction companies by allowing them to build in protected areas, among many other issues.

We are already taking action, working with the parties of the left, going to the Ombudsman or studying judicial developments, not only for the taxi, but for the whole of civil society that is going to be affected by these neoliberal and savage policies to favour a few. A few that we have proven evade taxes, break the rules, violate consumer rights and harm the rest of the transport sector and the citizens.

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