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Taxi drivers against liberalization, again

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A national taxi strike will begin at midnight on Tuesday, lasting 48 hours. The strike, proclaimed by the 14 main trade associations, follows weeks of protests by taxi drivers, who in many cases had organized strikes without the authorization of the unions and without announcing them in advance.

The protests of recent weeks, as well as the strike on Tuesday and Wednesday, are due to a bill approved by the Senate and now under discussion in the House, the so-called “competition bill“. In particular, one passage is contested, Article 10, which it is claimed can lay the foundations for a liberalization of the sector, an issue that taxi drivers have opposed for many years and that no government has so far been able to concretely address.

The article delegates the government to adopt a decree to modernize the non-scheduled public transport sector (i.e. taxis and NCC services, rental services with driver) to improve its efficiency. The text is rather vague and does not immediately introduce real forms of liberalization of the sector, but says that the government must work to ensure “better consumer protection”.

Among other things, the article says that the government should adapt “the offer of services to the forms of mobility that take place through the use of applications web which use technological platforms for the interconnection of passengers and drivers “and promote” competition, including when awarding licenses, in order to stimulate higher quality standards “.

Despite the vagueness of the text, the taxi unions have welcomed this bill as a first step towards a future and wider liberalization of taxis, and are therefore contesting it. In a note, the unions said that they are not available “to any step backwards, to any kind of agreement” and that “our battle is the struggle of 40,000 workers against financial speculation, but also the defense of users. of a public service against mechanisms such as algorithms and free markets that would strangle them in their time of need ».

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The protests of taxi drivers seem to have found support in various parties: there are the Lega and Fratelli d’Italia, which like all center-right and right-wing parties have always been very close to the demands of taxi drivers (who in big cities have been on several occasions important factors in local or national elections), and who proposed suppressing amendments to article 10 during the examination of the bill in the Productive Activities Committee.

But other political forces did the same: a suppressive amendment was presented by Davide Gariglio and Umberto Del Basso De Caro of the PD, and another by Stefano Fassina of Liberi e Uguali. The only ones who openly supported Article 10 and the need for a liberalization of the sector were Action, + Europe and Forza Italia.

The protest in recent days is nothing new: taxi drivers have been opposed for decades to any attempt to liberalize the market, which could, for example, increase the number of licenses available. The Minister of Economic Development Pierluigi Bersani had tried in 2006 and the Prime Minister Mario Monti in 2012, but in both cases the attempts had failed, also due to the resistance of the taxi driver unions.

The category’s opposition to any liberalization has also become even more strenuous after various rental services with driver (the so-called NCC) have arrived in Italy in recent years, the most famous of which is undoubtedly Uber. Services such as Uber’s have been widely contested by taxi drivers, who have accused the US company of unfair competition, blaming it for wanting to steal customers, operating without licenses and without specific regulation. Also due to the opposition of taxi drivers, to date Uber in Italy works in a very different way compared to other countries: in Italy, Uber Pop is illegal, the service in which the drivers are not professionals and which is widespread abroad ( also with the name UberX).

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