French cabbies burn cars in Uber protest

PARIS - Protests in France against ride-booking app Uber turned violent yesterday as taxi drivers burned cars and blocked access to airports and train stations.

Some 2,800 cabbies took part in the strike, with more than 30 blockades nationwide, including the access points to Charles de Gaulle and Orly airports in Paris, police sources said.

Taxi drivers in France are furious over an Uber service called UberPOP, which puts customers in touch with private drivers at prices lower than those of traditional taxis.

Licensed cabbies say the service is endangering their jobs by flooding the market with low-cost drivers. UberPOP has been banned in France since January, but the law has proved difficult to enforce and the service continues to operate.

One private chauffeur, who said he did not work for Uber "or any other app", was dragged from his van by angry cabbies when he reached a blockade in the west of Paris.

They slashed his tyres, smashed a window and then set it on fire. "Why did you come to work, you know we're on strike today," shouted one cabby, while AFP journalists saw another car on fire farther down the road. Police eventually fired tear gas and broke up the protest on the western stretch of the motorway, clearing burning tyres from the road that rings the capital, but there were later attempts to stall traffic.

Peaceful protests played out at transport hubs in other major cities, including Toulouse and Marseille. "UberPOP is banned, but it's still here," cabby Stephane Molla said in the south-western city of Bordeaux.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 26, 2015, with the headline 'French cabbies burn cars in Uber protest'. Print Edition | Subscribe