Taxi drivers call off strike after late night ballot

Malaga taxis in Seville on Wednesday.
Malaga taxis in Seville on Wednesday. / J. M. SERRANO
  • Following a meeting with the Junta de Andalucía on Wednesday the drivers voted to go back to work at a heated assembly that went on into the early hours of Thursday

The Malaga taxi drivers announced the end to their strike in the early hours of Thursday morning after a vote at a heated meeting.

Representatives came away from a meeting in Seville earlier on Wednesday with the regional minister for Public Works and Transport, Felipe López, saying that they were satisifed with the Junta's commitment to strengthen controls over the VTC chauffeur driven vehicle rentals sector.

The deadline of 15 September has been set to introduce the new controls.

At a tense assembly with drivers from the city and the Costa del Sol the decision over whether to continue the strike action was put to a vote in which 466 voted to go back to work and 118 to continue the strike.

Unexpected action

The stoppage by the over 1,300 taxis in Malaga city, who also serve the region’s main airport and other key transport hubs, began suddenly on Saturday night when the drivers noticed private hire cars from Cabify using a drop-off zone at Malaga’s annual fair, which has been running this week. The zone is reserved for licensed taxis and local buses.

Anger quickly spread, with drivers staging an impromptu vote, claiming that Cabify was illegally taking business from them and demanding a meeting with the city’s mayor, Francisco de la Torre.

The taxi drivers had already been incensed by an email sent by Cabify to its independent private hire drivers in Madrid urging some of them to come to Malaga during the peak period of the fair to cope with demand. Cabify says that 30 to 35 extra cars took up the offer, doubling the number it already had in the city.

Expensive to buy a licence

Taxi drivers’ unions claimed that this was a provocation, saying that while they are tightly regulated and often have to invest up to 200,000 euros when licences change hands privately, drivers of private hire cars, which customers reserve through online applications, pay hardly anything for licences and are less controlled.

They also allege that Cabify cars have been flouting the law and using taxi ranks to pick up passengers and also plying for business freely in the streets.

Cabify representatives denied the accusations and countered the taxi drivers’ arguments, saying that they are totally legal, the number of their vehicles is tiny and that, during ‘feria’, there is more than enough demand for everyone.

They have also reported to police alleged intimidation and damage to cars during the strike and the assault of a Cabify drivers’ representative at Malaga airport. Taxi drivers’ unions have condemned the violence.

Meeting with the taxi drivers on Sunday, Malaga’s mayor said that he had managed to get Cabify to withdraw half the outside cars as goodwill, but drivers said this was not enough, wanting to see all removed.

Meanwhile the strike spread to other Costa towns, with some taxis stopping work or refusing to bring people into the airport or city.

A few drivers from other parts of Spain also travelled to Malaga to “show solidarity” with the strikers.

After the meeting with the Junta, drivers have given politicians until a follow-up meeting on 15 September to take steps to increase the monitoring of private hire cars before deciding the next stage of their protest.