Drivers in Bratislava should prepare for an even more complicated traffic than during ordinary days on Wednesday, April 26. Taxi drivers, who do not like how authorities in Bratislava approach alternative taxi services such as Uber, are planning a protest ride. This way they will fulfill their threat they voiced at the protest rally 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. They see them as unfair competition as their drivers do not hold taxi licenses, their cars are not marked as taxis and do not have taximeters. Due to this they are able to offer lower prices then licensed taxi drivers.
“We’re saying that this isn’t the last protest,” said Matej Krampl, one of the organisers of the rally, on April 11 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 protest ride will start from the shopping centre Danubius in Petržalka at 9:00 and will go along with the city bypass towards Lamač. The joined taxis will go by the lowest possible speed, i.e. 65 km per hour, and only in the right lane. They promise not to block traffic.
“We do not want to set people against us by blocking the bypass,” the Stop Uber initiative informs on its website.
The taxi drivers claim that drivers working for various taxi applications and similar taxi services like Uber or Taxify 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.
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 Transport Ministry claims that the services provided via Uber and similar applications are taxi services, but the law does not enable it to check them. This is in hands of the city.
The city council is aware of the need to address the issue, but at the moment they have no power 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. The ministry 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.
In the meantime taxi drivers have refused the idea of the opposition Freedom and Solidarity party (SaS) to ease existing legal conditions for provision of taxi services. The taxi drivers claim that the current regulation is set well and what their only requirement is that partner drivers of Uber and other similar apps also fulfill conditions set by the valid legislation.