Min­is­ter sides with union­ist in taxi wran­gle

Kathimerini English - - Front Page -

Trans­port Min­is­ter Chris­tos Spirtzis ap­peared in an Athens court yes­ter­day as a wit­ness for the de­fense of At­tica taxi driv­ers’ union (SATA) chief Thymios Lym­beropou­los, who is be­ing sued by the CEO of ride-hail­ing app Beat, Nick Dran­dakis, for slan­der.

Lym­beropou­los, who played a key role in the com­po­si­tion of a new law that im­poses stricter reg­u­la­tions on the op­er­a­tion of ride-hail­ing ser­vices in Greece, has been call­ing for re­forms to that leg­isla­tive frame­work, keen to pre­serve the taxi driv­ers’ hold of the mar­ket.

Hun­dreds of taxi driv­ers turned up at the court­room to sup­port their union leader dur­ing a 12-hour walk­out yes­ter­day.

Spirtzis, for his part, cau­tiously de­fended Lym­beropou­los, who rep­re­sents some 50,000 taxi driv­ers. As re­gards the al­legedly slan­der­ous com­ments the taxi union chief is said to have made against Beat and Dran­dakis, the min­is­ter said Lym­beropou­los had sim­ply been “do­ing his duty to de­fend his sec­tor.” The new reg­u­la­tions ef­fec­tively im­posed or­der on what had been a le­gal vac­uum, he told the court.

How­ever, Spirtzis stressed to re­porters on his de­par­ture, that the leg­isla­tive frame­work gov­ern­ing the op­er­a­tion of taxis and ride-hail­ing apps is now “com­plete” and that no fur­ther changes will be made, in­di­rectly re­ject­ing a bid by Lym­beropou­los to in­tro­duce fur­ther re­forms.

From Beat’s side, a spokes­woman said that Lym­beropou­los’s claims that the com­pany was guilty of tax eva­sion and break­ing Greek laws were “in­cor­rect and false.” The claims caused Beat sig­nif­i­cant losses, ac­cord­ing to the spokes­woman for the com­pany, which is seek­ing 260,000 eu­ros in dam­ages from Lym­beropou­los for slan­der.

Greek au­thor­i­ties im­posed stricter reg­u­la­tions on the sec­tor this year, in­clud­ing oblig­ing app op­er­a­tors to ap­ply for per­mits and use li­censed taxi driv­ers or face heavy fines.

The move led global ride-hail­ing ser­vice Uber, which has faced le­gal wran­gles in other coun­tries, to an­nounce the sus­pen­sion of its oper­a­tions.

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