BUENOS AIRES – Hundreds of tax drivers flooded on Thursday into downtown Buenos Aires with their black and yellow fleet of vehicles to protest local activity by the Uber and Cabify ride-hailing services, which they consider to be damaging their business and competing unfairly.
Three years after Uber began operations in Argentina, both taxi owners and drivers, who operate vehicles for other owners, moved from different parts of the capital on Thursday toward the Casa Rosada, the seat of the Argentine government, to deliver a document in which they laid out the delicate situation in their sector.
As Esteban Villalba, the representative of the Capital Taxi Drivers Association, told EFE, the number of rides given by registered taxis had dropped by 40-50 percent since the arrival of Uber.
In November, the capital government approved a law designed to halt the spread of the private transport services by toughening the penalties for those people transporting passengers illegally, but nevertheless Uber continues to operate in Buenos Aires.
“It’s quite amazing to us how they’re firm in mobilizing all the troops to dislodge the (ride-hailing service drivers), who are presumably illegal, and apparently there are no tools for removing these illegal operators,” Villalba said.
Meanwhile, the Cabify transport service is legally operating as a hired vehicle service, but many of the participants at the demonstration continue to consider it illegal.
Regarding the modernization of the taxi sector, the union representative said that they are moving forward significantly with that project with the launching of the BATaxi application, which functions similarly to other platforms on which passengers can call a taxi and they will respond.
Gustavo Centurion, who has worked as a taxi driver for 26 years, transported EFE in his vehicle en route to the Casa Rosada amid a sea of colleagues waving yellow and black flags – the colors of the capital taxis – and honking their horns to highlight their presence and demands.
Centurion said that this is “the worst crisis” that the union has experienced, and as a result he has to work more than 12 hours per day.
“Not just in the sector but all over the country, the economic crisis we’re going through is terrible and, to top it off, we have this against us – Uber, Cabify and all this that’s making things complicated,” he said.
The most often heard complaint from the protesters was that the ride-hailing services don’t have the same registration or insurance requirements, and the drivers do not have to have the same training as bona fide taxi drivers.
“Every year, they make us do a six-hour course to tell us what speed you can drive on a highway or where Congress or the Casa Rosada is located,” said Patricia, who drives a taxi just like her husband.
However, she said that Uber doesn’t demand any of that from its drivers and yet they can pick up passengers “with no trouble” and “nothing happens to them.”
“I hope that justice is done and I hope that the law is equal for everyone. If you start driving a vehicle like me, an Uber or whatever, ... and you can earn the same as I do, congratulations. But don’t come and try to steal my job. ... They’re stealing our jobs,” she said.