Of course you heard about French taxi drivers almost killing a young man for he dared telling them he understood why people chose « Uber pop », the non professional branch of taxi driver company Uber. Of course you heard about the riots, cars upside down.
At the root of the taxi drivers anger, there are real reasons : Uber drivers do not pay for licence plates (250.000 euros that they can sell back when they retire, which may lose all its value if there are too many of these private drivers), they do not need to undergo any professional training. To become a Uber pop driver, you just need a car less than 10 years old, a driving licence, and a clean police record. You can have clients without declaring the money up to 7500 euros a year, but if you work more you need to become a self-employed auto-entrepreneur) and then you pay taxes.
Social safety valve
What about Parisians like me and maybe you, who no longer took a cab ( hey babe, there is a crisis !) because it was too expensive ? We were happy to be able to do so again.
What about those invisibles, those untouchables about whom nobody talks in the news : the many Uberpop drivers, mainly people on the dole trying to make some money, finding a way not to be ruminating at home ? I met a lot of very nice people who thanks to Uber system could make ends meet, young people not finding a job despite their degrees, older people who had bad years and debts trying to not give up ?
I was often striken by their kindness, the system of evaluation created by Uber helped of course and encouraged them to do their best.
Uber pop was empowering many people to get back into the system, or to avoid being cut from the system. They were filling a social gap on both ends, those who can't find another job, those who can no longer pay for a cab ?
The taxi drivers pretend that, contrary to Uberpop drivers, they are professional, but let's face it, anybody with a working GPS is as much a professional ! The French taxi driver level is hardly comparable to that of the black cabs in London.
Imagine cashiers who would strike because cashiers no longer need to be able to do mental calculation.
The French taxi drivers ( waiters too) succeded in building over the world an undisputable reputation of grumpiness and like many taxi drivers in the world, if you are a tourist you may do the round of Paris before getting to your destination, or being held in traffic may cost you the earth.
Uber Pop provided fixed price, set before you order your taxi, no money (you pay on the site with your credit card), quite cool, when almost apart from big companies do not accept credit cards. And foremost Uber pop offered some singular supplement : a smile, a story and taxi drivers at peak times when you cannot find taxis.
Uber pop drivers don't know where you are going and they take you without complaining.
I remember 15 years ago being 6 months pregnant with my twins and had to go to some professional meeting and two taxi drivers did not accept me because I could deliver in their cab. I was tired and I cried and an empathetic woman stoped by and drove me to my meeting. The number of times taxi drivers tell you that you are not in their direction because the place you are going to is not profitable, sometimes their taxi smells of tobacco, dog, and you have to withstand their loud radio.
Why should the Parisians and the tourists be held hostage right in the middle of the sales season ? Is that a good reason to show this third world violence and damage as the image of our country, certainly not.
Of course there should be more compensation for those taxi drivers who borrowed money and are sometimes indebted to buy their licence plates, and Uber pop needs to insure the Pop drivers pay taxes, but it would be a big mistake to dismantle the company which dusted off a job which had lost its nobility.
I was happy to have the Minister of Interior condemning this unbelievable violence but was horrified to hear that Uber pop was going to be dismantled. Just as if your kid is having a tantrum behaving badly and you say : you've been very bad darling and submit to his will
In legitimating this social violence, the government is exposing itself to further upsurge of violence. And that is very dangerous.