Taxis blocked access to Paris’s Roissy airport and snarled traffic in parts of the French capital as they began an indefinite nationwide strike against Uber Technologies Inc., the app-based ride service.
Airport operator Aeroports de Paris said on its Web site that road access to Roissy airport was blocked and advised travelers to use the RER train service to get there. The drivers also gathered at Orly airport and in front of main train stations, according to Agence France-Presse.
Taxi drivers planned to block train stations and major squares in the French capital and other cities like Lyon and Marseille, according to statements issued by several unions on Wednesday. The drivers are demanding that the French government crack down on what they say is Uber’s use of unlicensed chauffeurs.
“Many taxis drivers are infuriated,” Abdelkader Morghad, a representative of the FTI taxi union, said by phone on Wednesday. “We’re demanding that the Thevenoud law, which clearly forbids unlicensed drivers, be implemented. There’s a lack of political will to do it.”
The San Francisco-based company’s UberPop application is already opposed by the government. Still, the tension between licensed taxi drivers and unlicensed drivers at Uber and other applications such as Heetch and Djump has been rising. Uber drivers have been attacked or threatened with violence.
According to Morghad, taxis in France have seen revenues fall between 30 percent and 40 percent in the last two years because of such services.
Uber says it has signed up a million users in France -- including 250,000 for UberPop -- in just over three years.
France’s leading taxi company, Taxis G7, said it would be unable to take any bookings Thursday. Uber tariffs are likely to jump as they vary depending on demand.
An UberPop customer, Alexandre Berlin, was beaten up by taxi drivers last week-end as he left a club late in the night, using the application after a taxi on strike refused to take him, French newspapers Le Parisien and Le Monde said.
“It’s not up to the taxi drivers to enforce the law,” government spokesman Stephane Le Foll said on i-Tele on Wednesday. “UberPop is illegal but let the justice system do its job.”
The police in Paris will deploy an “adapted” force to prevent any incidents, a spokesman at Prefecture de Police de Paris said by phone, without elaborating.
French Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve said last week that he asked the country’s police and the tax fraud office to step up monitoring UberPop chauffeurs. The special police unit, dubbed “Les Boers,” has already made 420 legal filings against what they say are clandestine taxis using UberPop and similar services, Cazeneuve said.
Police in the cities of Strasbourg, Marseille and Nantes have prohibited the UberPop service. In Lyon, Uberpop was banned last week after taxis planned similar actions, newspapers said.