Around 2,800 taxi drives in France on Thursday protesting against US app UberPOP formed blockades around airports and some train stations, causing major delays and chaos in French capital Paris.
The strike followed weeks of rising tension as licensed taxi drivers claimed that UberPOP was threatening their jobs by providing private drivers at prices lower than traditional taxis.
In January, UberPOP was banned in France, however, the law proved it was challenging to enforce and the service continued to operate.
“UberPOP is illegal. It’s the law and it must be respected. We get the feeling the government is letting this happen,” said Rene Pierre-Jean, a member of the General Confederation of Labour (CGT), according to the Agence France-Presse (AFP)
Protesters blocked roads in central Paris including many access points to the capital’s Charles De Gaulle and Orly airports, police sources said.
French media showed images of police in riot gear firing tear gas to disperse the crowd and to clear the roads blocked off by burning tyres.
Reuters reported that French Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve called on the crowd to calm down and that he has instructed prosecutors to enforce a prohibition order on the United States based UberPOP service.
Aeroports de Paris, the operator of the French capital’s airports tweeted that there was no road access to the Orly airport and that passengers should try to get to the airport by train.
— Aéroports de Paris (@AeroportsParis) June 25, 2015
Taxi drivers also set up barriers around Marseilles and Aix-en-Provence in southeast France.
People were seen walking to the airport as the traffic was on standstill.
Courtney Love Cobain, an American musician tweeted that her taxi had been stuck in the ambush as protesters were “beating the cars with metal bats.”
they've ambushed our car and are holding our driver hostage. they're beating the cars with metal bats. this is France?? I'm safer in Baghdad
— Courtney Love Cobain (@Courtney) June 25, 2015
AFP reported that a private chauffeur who said he does not work for Uber was assaulted by taxi drivers who dragged him from his van. The angry cabbies allegedly slashed the tyres of the driver’s vehicle, smashed a window and then set it on fire.
Fifty-year-old Malia, a taxi driver of three years, spoke to AFP and defended the furious cabbies by saying “Taxi drives -- alright, they’ve got big mouths -- but normally they’re not aggressive.”
“But these guys have families to feed, debts. They’ve been pushed to the brink.”
US-based Uber, has been around in Paris since 2011 and claims to have 400,000 users in France.
However, unlike ordinary taxi drivers, Uber drivers do not pay taxes and does not take the 250 hours of training that is compulsory.