Rideshare firms Uber and Cabify have announced they could leave Barcelona after months of conflict with taxi drivers. "Unfortunately, the Catalan government has yielded to blackmail from taxis", said Marta Plana from Cabify, "for this reason, we VTC [rideshare license holders] see ourselves forced to leave Barcelona". The announcement came this evening after a meeting with territory minister Damià Calvet.
If there's no change, the firms will now stop operating in the Catalan capital the day after the government's executive order passes. Calvet says the order will be put to the government for approval next Tuesday, to enter into effect on Wednesday.
"We believe we haven't given in to any blackmail, rather that we've stood by our position. Maybe there were those who didn't want to be regulated, but we believe we have to regulate", Calvet said in response to the comments from the VTC companies.
The government's proposal is for users to have to book vehicles with companies like Uber at least 15 minutes in advance. Local councils could then increase this time based on their responsibility for territorial and environmental matters. "It's a proportional measure understanding that it doesn't make the VTCs' activity impossible but does differentiate them from the immediacy of the taxi service," the minister said.
"We've reiterated to them our wish to regulate, we don't want to regulate against one side or the other", said Calvet, "the VTC asked for there to be no minimum time limit for reservations, but we're basing [our position] on legal strength and there needs to be a difference made between VTCs and taxis".
"The executive order also includes banning geolocation for the digital platforms, something which has a logical explanation because it's comparable to immediacy," he continued. The minister said geolocation will be permitted once a ride has been booked.
They will also ban driving around without passengers. As such, after reaching its destination, the car will have to park.
Taxi drivers voting tomorrow
The drivers are "positive" about the new agreement, saying that "now we've got more than we had". Spokesperson for union Elite Taxi, Tito Álvarez, said that they will vote on the proposal at 11am on Wednesday. For the moment, however, the strike continues.
Despite having applauded the representatives as they left today's meeting with Calvet, some members say they will vote against accepting the proposal. They want the original agreement to define a minimum of one hour, rather than that being left as an option to local authorities. Calvet said that "we hope that all the sectors see it as an opportunity they have to take".