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French chauffeurs launch union over Uber fare cuts

© Alain Jocard, AFP | Drivers for car service company Uber, known as VTC drivers in France, stage a park-in protest in Porte Maillot in Paris on October 9, 2015

Text by FRANCE 24

Latest update : 2015-10-14

Independent chauffeurs in France on Monday created their own labour union after the low-cost taxi app Uber announced it was slashing fares in the French capital by 20 percent.

Drivers with the brand new union said they would boycott the Uber web application on Tuesday, only using rival online cab services, according to French media reports.

“[Uber’s] near monopoly allows it to play around with the flat rate without a care for the livelihoods of its chauffeurs,” Mohammed Rabi, who was elected the union’s spokesman on Monday evening, told France Info radio.

The disgruntled drivers were scheduled to gather in protest outside the company’s Paris headquarters on Tuesday morning, and threatened to suspend the use of the Uber app indefinitely.

Last week Uber dropped its rates in France following fare cuts by local copycat apps as well as standard cab companies, with the minimum ride with Uber drivers decreased from €8 to €5.

“While Uber lowers its rates, our expenses remain the same,” Rabi complained, “So yes, thanks to our new union we will finally be able to defend ourselves legally.”

Expansion limited

The newborn union is the latest twist in the Uber drama in France, where drivers of traditional taxi groups have loudly contested – and at times violently opposed – competition from inexperienced drivers who use the American firm’s software and competitive pricing schemes to poach clients.

After a bitter feud with taxi drivers and finding scant sympathy among authorities, the company decided in July to suspend its UberPop service in France. UberPop allows passengers to hail rides from ordinary motorists and is similar to Uber X services in the United States.

UberPop is now banned in Germany, Italy and Spain as well, and the firm is appealing pending bans in the Netherlands and Belgium.

While the company reveals little about its operations and profits in Europe, some information suggests its expansion across the Atlantic has so far been limited.

In records disclosed to a French court last week, the company claimed 2014 revenue was just 6 million euros, with a profit of 500,000 euros in France.

(FRANCE 24 with REUTERS)

Date created : 2015-10-13

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