Marseille taxi drivers have threatened to block access to the city to protest against a government project, relayed by the prefecture, to establish a flat rate for certain journeys. It is a project that is hotly contested by the profession, both in substance and in form.
A group of several unions is mobilized against the plan to introduce a flat rate for certain journeys to and from Marseille airport. The project, announced during a meeting in the prefecture on August 24, ignited the powder.
That day, “the prefecture summoned some of the unions to a meeting to inform them of the desire of the Ministry of the Economy to move to a fixed price in Marseille,” says Richard Tagarian, vice-president of the group of taxi unions of Bouches-du-Rhône, “but they sent their summons with incorrect email addresses as to hold it with only one of the four representative unions.” So much for form.
Mr. Tagarian further recalls that taxi fares are already regulated, set each year by the ministry for a period from January 1 to December 31. “We don’t increase our prices by 30% during events like hotels for example at the moment,” he says.
For the trade unionist, the flat rate, towards which the State is working and has taken comments by the airports and tourist offices on the prices of fares, does not take into account the vagaries of traffic or night rates.
As part of this conflict, the taxi unions have warned that they could block access to the city during the Pope's visit to Marseille, on September 22 and 23, as part of the Mediterranean Meetings. On Sunday September 23, Pope Francis is due to celebrate Mass at the Vélodrome, which will be broadcast on television.
The mayor tried to defuse the conflict by organizing a meeting with the various unions, so far without success. “We are waiting for a message from the prefecture, but today we see that the only way open is to block,” commented Richard Tagarian. According to the city of Marseille website, the city has 1,560 taxi drivers.
300,000 people are expected in the city for the Pope's Mass. The visit of Pope Francis will be the first by a Pontiff to Marseille since that of Clement VII, who came in October 1533 to celebrate the marriage of his niece Catherine de Medici to Henri, the son of King Francis I of France, who a few years later became King Henry II.