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French taxi drivers to continue strike

© THOMAS SAMSON/AFP

Text by FRANCE 24

Latest update : 2014-02-11

A debate involving French taxis was far from resolved on Tuesday in what unions say is unfair competition posed by a surge in popularity of private chauffeured cars, also known as tourist vehicules with chauffeur (VTCs).

After a strike disrupted traffic on Monday, the government named an official mediator Tuesday in the ongoing transportation drama.

Thomas Thévenoud, Socialist deputy from Saône-et-Loire, has been given two months to seek an agreement between the two camps.

Meanwhile, the unappeased union called for the strikes to continue until the government stops licensing VTCs altogether. A new day of strikes has been scheduled for March 13.

Differences in regulation

Would-be taxi drivers face exorbitant fees ahead of receiving an operating license, often running into the hundreds of thousands.

“I paid 235,000 euros for my taxi license and must conform to a series of strict regulations,” Philippe Morival, a 30-year cab driver veteran, told AFP on Monday. “VTC drivers, by contrast, can rent their cars from abroad and don’t answer to anyone.”

“Today, we are facing direct competition from VTCs that work virtually without regulation,” taxi union member Karim Lalouani concurred. “We are not fighting on equal terms. It’s like asking two boxers to enter the ring, but one has both hands tied behind his back.”

Previous decrees

In a bid to assuage the mounting discontent from taxi drivers, the French state in late December imposed a mandatory 15-minute delay between customer booking and pick-up for VTCs in a bid to give taxis an edge. But the Council of State suspended the decree earlier this month, saying it was a “serious and immediate infringement on the economic interests” of VTC firms.

The government on Saturday announced another attempt to find some common ground, saying it had established a commission to ensure “sustainable and balanced competition” between the taxis and the VTCs.

But many of those affected remain unconvinced.

“The commission is a gimmick,” said Michel Charbonnier, a 15-year taxi veteran.

(FRANCE 24 with AFP)

Date created : 2014-02-11

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