Taxi drivers across Colombia will strike on Wednesday in intensified attempts to have taxi app Uber effectively banned.
Opposition to the online taxi application has been fiercest in Bogota where Uber is most commonly used.
However, drivers from 20 other cities around the country will join their counterparts in the capital as they call on authorities to effectively clamp down on unregulated taxi apps as promised.
Manizales: mas de 300 propietarios de taxis listos para el M10. Paro Nal de taxistas. pic.twitter.com/U6xVBt6BKA
— Mesa-Nal-DeTaxistas (@MesaDeTaxistas) May 4, 2017
The government vowed to clamp down on the online taxi service in September last year, but to little effect. The app is still working, new drivers can still apply and jobs are scarce.
“In Bogota alone the Police has suspended 9,381 licenses of Uber drivers. However, there are drivers who continue to download Uber and Cabify. The government has to do something about it,” National Taxi Drivers’ Association director Hugo Ospinato told media.
The strike seeks to bring the ongoing dispute to a head as the San Francisco-based taxi Uber continues to defy orders by the government to formalize its operations in Colombia.
Taxi drivers claim that the use of these taxi applications has reduced their work output by between 60% and 70%, reported newspaper El Tiempo, with the association president placing some of the blame on the country’s tax agency DIAN.
“This is also the fault of the director of the DIAN, Mr. Santiago Rojas, because he has not controlled the tax evasion and the transfer of foreign exchange that Uber and other applications do very nonchalantly,” Ospina told the newspaper.
In November 2015 President Santos granted Uber 6 months to register as a formal company or be banned from the country.
Uber did not comply and hence was deemed illegal, with 1200 vehicles seized consequently in June 2016. Uber drivers are also facing violent clashes with yellow cab drivers.
According to Uber, it is not an employer, but “partner” of its affiliated drivers, and so exempt from paying compulsory health and pension benefits to its drivers and taxes to the government.
Uber said the Colombian government is infringing on consumer rights by protecting the traditional taxi industry and its drivers, who are furious at the competition.
With 30,000 drivers and 450,000 users, the public demand for Uber is undeniable in Colombia, a reality that taxi drivers see as detrimental to their livelihoods in the traditional taxi industry.