Polish taxi drivers protest growth of unlicensed drivers

Taxi drivers block traffic in Warsaw, Poland, Monday, June 5, 2017, as they protest the growing number of unlicensed drivers offering transport services to the citizens, saying that threatens the livelihoods of registered Taxi corporations. Similar massive protest were held in other cities like Wroclaw, Poznan and Lodz. (AP Photo/Czarek Sokolowski)

WARSAW, Poland (AP) — Hundreds of taxi drivers in Poland’s four largest cities drove at a crawl Monday blocking rush-hour traffic in a protest to draw the government’s attention to the rising number of unlicensed drivers who offer transport services.

The taxi drivers say those unlicensed services, such as Uber, are a threat to their livelihoods and want the government to protect their authorized businesses.

Advancing slowly in long lines, with Poland’s national white-and-red flags flying on their cars, they were to deliver petitions to the office of Prime Minister Beata Szydlo and to the finance and infrastructure ministries and regional authorities. Their action drew some angry comments from bus drivers and those trying to get to work on time.

“A total failure, it took me two hours to reach the office,” an angry businessman Piotr Sakowicz, told The Associated Press. It usually takes him 40 minutes to drive the distance. “I don’t think it will help their cause.”

Some 2,000 members were taking part in the protest, said Jaroslaw Iglikowski, the head of the taxi drivers’ union in Warsaw. Unlike registered drivers, unlicensed ones produce no fiscal records for the tax offices and do not have to pass psychological tests, he said.

“We want the government to react to the illegal activity of some transport groups,” Iglikowski told the Polish news agency, PAP.

The price of one kilometer in a licensed taxi is about 0.43 euro in central Warsaw and grows with the distance. Unlicensed services cost less.

A state office protecting competition and consumers’ interests said last month it was monitoring the situation but saw no need to intervene against unlicensed services.

In addition to the demonstration in Warsaw, similar protests were staged in the cities of Wroclaw, Poznan and Lodz.

Earlier this year the government said it was working on a new law to regulate transport services, but gave no deadline for implementing it.