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Rome taxi drivers clash with police during Uber expansion protest

Taxi drivers clashed with police in Rome on Wednesday with flares and smoke bombs thrown during a protest against a law aimed at opening up the taxi market.

Taxi drivers' protests in Rome
Italian taxi drivers have been protesting for weeks against a new government bill allegedly opening up the industry to unfair competition. Photo by Andreas SOLARO / AFP

A protest in central Rome turned violent on Wednesday as a group of taxi drivers threw flares and smoke bombs at police in the latest of a series of protests against planned deregulation of the industry.

Police sealed off the area surrounding Palazzo Chigi, the office of Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi, just a few hundred metres from where protestors gathered, news agency Ansa reported.

No arrests or injures were immediately reported.

Italian taxi drivers have been protesting for weeks against a new deregulation bill which they fear will expose the country’s highly regulated and protected taxi industry to unfair competition from online ride-sharing services such as Uber. 

On Tuesday, five taxi drivers chained themselves to the gates in front of Palazzo Chigi, demanding “clarity and transparency” from the government over the much-contested bill.

Protests were held in cities around Italy this week, including Turin, where around 200 protesters were occupying Vittorio Veneto Square with their vehicles.

Wednesday’s clashes were not the first time such protests had turned violent: scuffles broke out and smoke bombs were thrown near the prime minister’s office last week during a protest by taxi drivers over the same issue.

Tensions were heightened this week following reports on the ‘Uber Files’: an investigation by international media into leaked documents which allegedly show that the start-up worked around laws in various countries and used aggressive lobbying tactics to curry favour with governments.

In a joint note released earlier on Wednesday, Drivers’ unions accused the Italian government of being “blind to the scandals and malpractice that have emerged in the past few days” in relation to Uber’s conduct in different European countries.

While Uber does exist in Italy, it currently operates on a limited basis in the biggest cities only and the Uber Black service was banned in the country up until 2017.

But the company is now set for major expansion after finalising a deal in May to integrate its app with Italy’s largest taxi dispatcher, IT Taxi.

The move is set to make the app available in over 80 more towns and cities in Italy.

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TRAVEL NEWS

Italian low-cost airline staff to strike on October 1st

Pilots and flight attendants from Ryanair and Vueling will strike on Saturday, October 1st over wages and working conditions, unions said.

Italian low-cost airline staff to strike on October 1st

Pilots and cabin crew from Ryanair and Vueling will take part in a national strike action on Saturday, October 1st, Italian unions confirmed in a statement released on Monday. 

The statement said Ryanair staff will hold a 24-hour walkout, whereas Vueling staff will strike for a total of four hours, from 1pm to 5pm.

At the time of writing it wasn’t yet clear how the strike would affect passengers, though significant delays or cancellations can’t be ruled out. 

Italian trade unions Filt-Cgil and Uiltrasporti called the strike in protest against the employers’ failure to “grant acceptable working conditions and wages that are in line with minimum national salaries”. 

Unions also slammed Spanish airline Vueling’s decision to lay off 17 flight attendants based in Rome’s Fiumicino Airport “after months of hard work and professionalism”. 

A Vueling Airbus A320 plane.

Staff from Spanish airline Vueling will strike over working conditions and the recent lay-off of 17 flight attendants. Photo by Fabrice COFFRINI / AFP

The upcoming strike will be the latest in a long series of demonstrations that rocked Europe’s airline industry over the summer, causing significant disruption to thousands of air passengers. 

READ ALSO: Airport chaos in Europe: What are your rights if flights are delayed or cancelled?

The last significant strike was held on Monday of last week, when a 24-hour national strike from unionised ground staff caused Italy’s flag carrier, ITA Airways, to cancel several domestic flights. 

On that occasion, ITA said affected passengers were rebooked on the first available flights.

As with all previous strikes, passengers travelling with Ryanair or Vueling on Saturday, October 1st are advised to contact their airline for updates prior to setting off.

In the event of delays and/or cancellations, the rights of all passengers are protected by EU regulation EC 261. This applies to any air passenger flying within the EU/Schengen zone, arriving in the EU/Schengen zone from a non-EU country by means of a EU-based airline (all airlines involved in the strike are EU-based) or departing from the EU/Schengen zone. 

READ ALSO: Passports: What are the post-Brexit rules for dual-nationals travelling in Europe?

According to this regulation, airlines are financially accountable for any journey disruption they are responsible for. That includes disruptions caused by airline staff strikes. Therefore, should your flight be significantly delayed or cancelled, you might be entitled to receive compensation from your airline. 

For further information on what you might be entitled to and in which cases, check our guide here.

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