Taxi drivers plan another protest

One taxi association is still unhappy over the government's agreement with Uber

Protests by taxi drivers may not be over. The Association of Czech Taxi Drivers (SČT) is not pleased with the agreement signed between ride-sharing service Uber and the Czech government and is calling for taxi drivers to protest on Friday, May 4, in Čestlice, just south of Prague.

The government, led by Andrej Babiš (ANO), signed the agreement with Uber on April 30.

As previously determined, the agreement called for Uber to commit to getting a Czech business license to operate locally, rather than rely on a license from another EU country. Uber drivers will have to meet the conditions for a regular taxi driver, including a license and an exam. The signing of the agreement had been delayed over issues including deadlines.

The government announced the signing over Twitter and had a comment on the government website.

“The agreement specifies the company's commitment to share data with the Ministry of Finance, so the Czech government will have a better overview of taxes paid in the Czech Republic. All parties also agreed that the company will introduce electronic records of sales (EET) for their services. At the same time, all drivers must comply with the law. All parties will also keep an eye on whether the conditions they have agreed upon will be respected,” the government website stated, adding that a meeting would take place in three months to review the implementation.

The SČT says that the agreement “liquidates” traditional taxi drivers. On its Facebook page, the SČT calls for drivers to show their disagreement with the situation by converging on 5 am May 4 on Čestlice, the town where Prime Minister Babiš (ANO) resides.

Taxi drivers had been complaining that Uber and other ride services based on apps were unfair competition as they worked outside of the laws that regulated taxis. But the agreement still maintains unfair and unequal conditions, according to SČT.

“We consider the memorandum an attempt by the government to create a cat-dog hybrid service that is not monitored, while the rest of the taxis will be strictly regulated and monitored,” the SČT said in a press release.

Taxi drivers have held several protests since September 2017. The largest one in early October snarled traffic headed to Václav Havel Airport Prague. They have also organized slow drives in other parts of the city.

Critics, though, blame the taxi drivers themselves for creating a situation where people were looking for alternatives, as taxi drivers have long had a poor reputation.

Many City Hall administrations have tried to tackle the issue. In April 2017 signs were put up near popular tourist spots to warn people against taking standing cabs and informing people of the proper rates. One sign warned that taxi drivers often charge more than 10 times the official rate, making it one of the highest in Europe.

In 2015, the Czech News Agency reported that one in three taxi drivers overcharged, based on spot checks made by city inspectors.

In January 2005 then-mayor Pavel Bém dressed up as an Italian tourist and was charged 500 percent of the official rate for a short trip to Prague Castle. In another cab, he was charged double for paying in euros.

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