If the authorities do not take action, the number of protests by taxi drivers in Bratislava will increase and a mass transport strike, blocking Bratislava streets, might follow as well. This was the main message from about 60 taxi drivers who rallied in front of Bratislava city council on April 11. The protest was an appeal to the authorities and institutions to finally start addressing the issue of the mobile taxi app, Uber and similar taxi services.
“We’re saying that this isn’t the last protest,” said Matej Krampl, one of the organisers of the rally, as cited by the TASR newswire. “We’ll go on, and it will escalate. This will happen more regularly. If they don’t act, we’ll express our disapproval in this way.”
The taxi drivers claim that drivers working for various taxi applications and similar taxi services are violating legislation but the authorities tolerate this. They claim that the legislation should apply to everyone equally – to taxi drivers as well as to Uber drivers. This means that drivers providing alternative taxi services via Uber and similar apps should also obtain a taxi license, have a taxi meter in the car, pass psychological tests and other requirements.
“How is it possible that there can be one group that has observed the law is regulated while another, which isn’t complying with the law, is ignored,” said Bratislava Taxi Drivers Union chief, Ondrej Wenzl, adding that it’s unacceptable that the city council is taking no action in this regard, claiming that it has no powers to do anything.
The city council is aware of the need to address the issue, but at the moment they have no powers to take action, said Zuzana Onufer, spokesperson for the city council. They can keep tabs on traditional taxi drivers via the city police, but they cannot do the same in the case of unmarked Uber drivers as they cannot check civilian cars without a proper reason. Onufer went on to say that an amendment to the law on taxi services is necessary as well but the Transport and Construction Ministry has shown no interest in this.
In late March the Transport Ministry called on the city council to intensify the checks on providers of alternative taxi services. While it claims that the services provided via Uber and similar applications are taxi services, the law does not enable checks. This is in hands of the city. It sees the powers of the city council as sufficient to check drivers using Uber and similar apps.
Uber claims that its drivers operate in line with EU directives and provide registered users of the platform with a reliable and safe service, informed Uber spokesperson for Slovakia and the Czech Republic, Miroslava Jozová. The drivers are legally registered and have to meet their tax obligations. Jozová pointed out that protests as well as attacks by traditional taxi drivers against Uber drivers, only highlight the fact that the platform is becoming more and more popular.
There are some 3,000 taxi drivers in the capital with valid taxi licenses while Uber reports approximately 500 drivers. Uber launched its operation in Bratislava in August 2015. Taxify began to provide services in Bratislava in November 2016. Taxi drivers report that their sales decreased by about 30-40 percent, at least, over 2016.
13. Apr 2017 at 12:25 | Compiled by Spectator staff