Portuguese taxis stiffen anti-Uber strike with protests

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Two boys ride their bikes past taxis parked roadside during a strike against the online ride-hailing services in downtown Lisbon on September 26, 2018. / AFP PHOTO / Francisco LEONG

Striking taxi drivers blocked traffic in major Portuguese cities Wednesday and converged on parliament to protest a law that sets working conditions for rival app-based ride-sharing companies such as Uber.

The drivers have been on strike for the past week in Lisbon, Porto and Faro to demonstrate opposition to a law that consolidates the position of Uber, Spanish-based Cabify, and Estonian rival Taxify.

Bus lanes were blocked in Lisbon, traffic snarled by 500 cabs near the parliament, and tourists forced to find other ways of reaching town from the airport.

“All we want is a fair law,” cab driver Fernando Pereira told AFP.

Florencio de Almeida, head of the taxi association Antral, complained that the new legislation “legalises unfair competition. It is made to order for companies like Uber.”

His group seeks limits on the number of vehicles such companies can operate, and he vowed not to budge unless the government provided “guarantees” to that effect.

Portuguese Prime Minister Antonio Costa told lawmakers his government would not yield either, arguing that “there is an unjust situation, but in favour of taxis.”

One measure in the new law introduces a five-percent tax on commissions that ride-sharing companies earn by setting up drivers with clients.

In neighbouring Spain, where tension between the two groups is also strong, Uber and Cabify drivers plan to protest Thursday against a government decree they say will rescind their licences and threaten 60,000 jobs.