August 20, 2017

Taxi drivers in Casablanca ramp up war on ride-sharing services

Searching for new tactics. Moroccan taxi drivers check the Uber application as they wait for customers in Casablanca. (AFP)

Casablanca - Red taxi drivers are ramp­ing up their war on Uber and other unlicensed ride-sharing services (RSS) in Casablanca, as authorities remain unclear on their stance towards the companies.
After numerous anti-Uber pro­tests, including the display of anti- Uber stickers on windshields and boots, cab drivers are resorting to more extreme tactics to counter the American-based service. In recent months, taxi drivers have hailed dozens of Uber cars and then sur­rounded the vehicles to intimidate the drivers. Scenes of drivers in the middle of a red army are reminiscent of those in France two years ago.
A video showing an RSS driver being assaulted by red taxi drivers in Casablanca after his vehicle was blocked by three taxis went viral on social media.
Uber drivers have been seriously injured in similar altercations.
Residents of Casablanca took to social media to express anger at red taxi drivers’ behaviour.
With tensions rising, authorities have taken an ambiguous position, not legally approving RSS activities but still tolerating them, a loophole that has angered many cab drivers.
“We have tried everything against illegitimate RSS activities. We staged protests, used stick­ers and posters, but in vain,” said Mohammed, a taxi driver who pays a monthly fee of $500 to the licence owner.
“The taxi has to run 24 hours a day, seven days a week to earn a liv­ing. If we want to change the car, we must pay a substantial amount of money to the licence owner, which is insane,” he said. He drives a de­caying Peugeot 205.
“How do you want us not to be angry with companies that come from nowhere and start operating without being officially licensed?” Mohammed asked.
Mohamed Moutaki, secretary-general of the National Democratic Union of the Taxi Sector, said the authorities must do their work and issue licences to RSS to resolve the issue.
“We demand that RSS stop their activities until they get their li­cences. In many countries compa­nies like Uber got the sack. So why are the Moroccan authorities mum about the matter?” Moutaki asked.
“Our war is legitimate and we will continue our struggle as long as these companies are not licensed to operate,” he said.
One red taxi driver, who spoke on condition of anonymity, denounced his colleagues’ tactics.
“There is plenty of work in Casa­blanca. I don’t see why taxi drivers are using violence against Uber and other RSS drivers,” he said. “RSS cre­ated job opportunities in the city and improved the taxi service. Let the authorities deal with the mat­ter.”
Uber Maroc says its app is aimed at “active young people who have a smartphone and use their bank cards for online payment” and eye a better service.
Many RSS customers said they are using the service because it is faster, more comfortable and convenient, although it is more expensive. Nyzar Jorio said he prefers to get an Uber ride because the drivers drive better and are more reliable.
“To be honest with you, I never had a problem with Uber. Their cars are clean and you don’t have to share the ride with other people,” said Jorio.
Maria Sara Rahmani said she couldn’t agree more.
“RSS is available as required. I can plan my outings and my meet­ings. It’s safer because you know the name of your driver… You cannot have the risk of theft and aggres­sion,” said Rahmani.
Jorio said the only inconvenience is that customers sit in the front be­cause of drivers’ desire to avoid be­ing spotted by red taxi drivers.
“Another problem is that they can’t do drop-offs and pickups at the airports,” he said.