Taxis go on strike across Italy over Uber benefits

Taxi drivers were striking between 8am and 10pm on Thursday as part of an ongoing row over perceived perks for non-official car hire services.

Taxis go on strike across Italy over Uber benefits
File photo of a taxi sign outside the Colosseum, where taxi drivers were protesting on Thursday. Photo: AFP

The strike, announced last week, follows six days of unofficial strike action at the end of February, which led to violent protests outside parliament.

Although not all taxi unions signed up to the strike, taxi services in Italy's big cities have been left severely depleted by, including services to and from airports.

According to the leader of Uritaxi, a union which is not taking part in the industrial action, many drivers weren't working on Thursday due to “fear of retaliation” from other drivers.

At affected airports, additional staff are on hand to advise travellers, and in Rome, replacement bus services are taking visitors to and from the airports.

In the capital, taxi drivers marched from the Colosseum to the central Piazza Madonna di Loreto, where union representatives will report on the ongoing talks with the government.

Similar protests are taking place in Milan, Naples, Genoa, and Turin.

Rome mayor Virginia Raggi, who has expressed support for the drivers and criticized government reforms “imposed from the top down”, reminded taxi drivers that they were “the first ambassadors of our capital”. She called on those protesting to guarantee a minimum level of service and avoid any incidents which could damage the city's image.

“We understand the difficulty of the situation and their [drivers'] reasons, but the capital, particularly ahead of the celebration of the 60th anniversary of the Treaty of Rome, is in the spotlight of the world,” noted Raggi.

The row is over government regulation of car-hire and car-share services, which taxi drivers claim benefit from rules regarding tariffs and licenses.

Currently, Uber or NCC drivers can purchase their licenses in smaller towns, where they cost less, but use them to work in cities, something taxi drivers are unable to do. Private car hire drivers are also able to charge as much as they like, compared to taxi drivers who are limited to fixed tariffs.

Italy's transport ministry on Wednesday unveiled a decree aimed to stop 'abuse' from private car hire drivers in an effort to avert the strike, but the measure was not enough to appease the unions.

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Body of missing American tourist found in Rome’s River Tiber

The body of a missing 21-year-old tourist was found in the River Tiber on Thursday morning, according to media reports.

Body of missing American tourist found in Rome's River Tiber

Elijah Oliphant, from Dallas, Texas, was on holiday with his family in Rome when he went missing several days ago.

Oliphant’s parents reported his disappearance after he left his hotel room shortly after midnight on May 24th and did not return.

Hotel security footage showed him leaving the premises wearing a white undershirt and pyjama bottoms, which he was wearing when he was found.

Oliphant’s corpse was reportedly spotted by passersby near the Ponte Sisto bridge in Rome’s Trastevere district around 10am on Thursday morning. His body was positively identified by his parents.

Members of the fire brigade and river police who recovered the body say there were no obvious signs of violence, but an autopsy will be conducted to determine the cause of death. Trastevere police are reportedly investigating the matter.

The Oliphant family had arrived in Rome for a holiday on May 23rd. When Elijah went missing the following day, his parents launched an urgent appeal to help find their son.

His disappearance was featured on the missing persons television show, Chi l’ha visto (‘Who’s seen them?’) on May 25th.

Several foreigners have been found drowned in the Tiber in recent years, though there are no indication that any of the incidents are linked.

In 2016, the body of 19-year-old American student Beau Solomon was recovered from the river.

Rough sleeper Massimo Galioto was charged involuntary manslaughter in the case, but was ultimately acquitted in 2020.

Prosecutors said that Galioto pushed Solomon in the course of a violent argument. Galioto’s defense team acknowledged that the two had argued but said the student had accidentally slipped.

In May 2019, 37-year-old Imen Chatbouri, a former athletics champion from Tunisia, was found dead in the Tiber after a night out. CCTV footage later showed she had been pushed from the Ponte Sisto bridge.

A then-26-year-old man whose advances she had rejected earlier that evening was convicted of her murder in November 2021.