At the height of tourist season in Spain, taxi drivers in Barcelona, Madrid, and other metropolitan cities have decided to go on strike, alleging “unfair competition” from rideshare companies like Uber and Cabify.
Taxi drivers in Barcelona began an indefinite strike last Saturday and were joined by drivers in Madrid, Sevilla, Valencia, Alicante, Málaga, Zaragoza and La Rioja shortly after. In Barcelona, drivers have blocked access to the center of the city center and the airport. On Saturday, drivers were spotted sitting in beach chairs in the middle of the Gran Via, one of the city’s main boulevards, and camping in their cars and in tents.
Demonstrations began on Wednesday after a judge ruled that rideshare companies like Uber and Cabify could operate in the city. Aena, which manages most airports in Spain, said that several hubs, including Barcelona el Prat, had no taxi service due to the strikes.
There is no telling when the strike will end, though visitors to Barcelona and Madrid have the option of taking the train directly from the airport. Train service runs continuously in both cities.
Though protests have been relatively peaceful, some strikers were seen blocking and assaulting Uber and Cabify vehicles in Barcelona. In a video posted by El Economista on Instagram, a car is surrounded, kicked and spray painted.
Following the attacks, Uber and Cabify decided to suspend their services in Barcelona. In a statement, Uber Espana said, "Passenger and driver safety is our number one priority. As a result of the serious aggressions recorded today, the entire sector of the VTC we have decided to temporarily suspend the service in Barcelona." Service was reinstated on Friday.
The central government is expected to intervene, as Pedro Saura, the state secretary for infrastructure, transportation, and housing, attempts to negotiate with taxi associations including Fedetaxi, Elite Taxi, and Antaxi. He will also meet with Uber and Cabify representatives.
At the National Transportation Conference on Wednesday, the central government is expected to propose allowing regional governments the jurisdiction to oversee the distribution of VTC licenses used by companies like Uber and Cabify.
The UK Foreign Office advised tourists to be careful when visiting cities like Barcelona. "There have been large gatherings of people in Barcelona and other areas of the Catalonia region in relation to the political developments there. Further gatherings and demonstrations are likely to take place.
"They may occur with little or no warning and even demonstrations intended to be peaceful can escalate and turn confrontational. You should exercise caution if you’re in the vicinity. Demonstrations may also cause some disruption and delays to transport services," the office said online.
"Over 19 million British nationals visited Spain last year. Most visits are trouble-free," the office added.