Taxi drivers protest after six month break

A taxi group claims that supranational parasites will destroy the economy

Prague taxi drivers are planning another protest against competition from phone app-based services such as Uber and Taxify. The protest is planned for Nov. 13–16 on Letná plain and is aimed at the government's inaction against what taxi groups call criminal organizations.

The protest is supposed to take place from 8 am to 10 pm daily, but details on whether or not it will involve blocking traffic have not been disclosed.

The protest was announced over Facebook on the page of the Association of Czech Taxi Drivers (Sdružení českých taxikářů. SČT). The protest is titled “And Enough” and the graphic for it says: “It is us or them. Now or never!” The poster goes on to call for a stop to “supranational parasites” and asks for “transparency and professionalism.” They are also calling for an increase in the basic taxi rates and discussions with the government.

One version of the poster has the famous Uncle Sam from American war recruitment posters, but with the SČT logo on his top hat.
The Ministry of Transport is preparing an amendment to the section of the Road Transport Act that regulates the operation of taxis. The SČT wants to be involved in discussions on the changes, which will create a framework legally defining how ride-sharing services can operate.

The SČT said in press release that supranational corporations have come up an exploitation scheme that is a global attack on the very concept of a modern nation-state. “Under this scheme, classical labor relations and workers' rights are being destroyed and replaced by a kind of corporate neofeudalism,” they said. Unless the system is properly regulated, it could end in a social disaster and poverty, they add.

The group also claims that software such as phone apps cannot replace the accuracy of a taximeter.

Prime Minister Andrei Babis (ANO) in May came to an agreement with Uber over some key issues such as licenses for drivers and payment of taxes, and that stopped the previous wave of protests, though the SČT was not fully satisfied with the outcome.

Ride-sharing services claim the protests are counterproductive. “Liftago does not consider strikes or blockades to be an appropriate way to express opinions. Paradoxically, it has the opposite effect and it is overshadowing real problems in transportation that need to be solved,” Ondřej Krátký, co-founder and CEO of Liftago, said.

“We are actively trying to consult with officials and legislators in a way that will deal with substandard taxi services and unethical practices of some digital platforms, and their effect on the traffic situation in the future at the same time,” he added. Liftago is a Czech alternative taxi app that operates in 10 cities in the Czech Republic and Slovakia.

The results of the municipal elections in Prague, with the Pirate party winning, has caused renewed concern among taxi drivers.
Mayor-elect Zdeněk Hřib of the Pirate Party says he wants to bring Prague into to the 21st century. This includes making provisions for the idea of the shared economy, such as accommodation sharing and ride sharing.

Taxi drivers have held several protests since September 2017. The largest one in early October 2017 snarled traffic headed to Václav Havel Airport Prague. The most recent one was in May, though it was much smaller.

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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