Today taxi drivers across cities in France went on strike and protested against plans by the French government to open up the taxi business to even more competitors. The protest named operation escargot (operation snail) involves taxi drivers from Paris, Marseilles, Nice, Toulouse, Dijon, Lyon, Bordeaux, and Nantes all driving at extremely slow speeds down busy roads and around airports and train stations in order to cause traffic jams.
There are currently fifty five thousand taxis in France, with over seventeen thousand alone in the Paris region, and they have complained that they are already facing unfair competition from private minicabs and motorbike taxis and if the plans go ahead many will be put out of business. The plans involves cutting social security costs and reorganising hospital and patient transport by asking companies to bid for contracts paid by the Assurance Maladie (the French state health insurance system).
In Paris eleven conveys caused 175 kilometres of traffic jams as they headed from the airports and suburbs to the Champs de Mars and Ecole Militaire for a mass demonstration which started at noon. They say that driving patients to hospitals can account for up to ninety per cent of their income, and the Federation Nationale des Artisans du Taxi say that they do not have the funds to be able to into negotiations for contracts, especially against large corporations “such as Veolia.” Many taxi drivers in France already have to cover the cost of their vehicles, petrol, and taxi insurance, so finding extra funds is practically impossible.
However, taxi users across France have said that they find it difficult to find a taxi at busy times, and one woman wrote to Le Monde saying “People in cities are ready to give up their cars and depend on taxis, but there are no taxis – they are off being ambulancmen.” However, taxi drivers have said that they are already finding it difficult to find fares since minicabs “steal passengers” as they don’t have to wait in authorised taxi ranks.