Uber is turning the tables … on itself. To protest regulation changes in Paris that critics claim were made to appease taxi drivers, the transportation giant shut down its services in the French capital for around four hours on Tuesday. The rather gutsy move feels more like a PR stunt than an effective means of affecting change, but it’s certainly gotten quite a bit of attention (case in point here). It’s also, perhaps, a more considerate way of protest than blocking streets and causing traffic nightmares. Rather, it would appear that Uber is trying to drive home just how important its services are to helping Parisians get from point A to point B in the 21st-century sharing economy.
Between 11 a.m. and 3 p.m. local time, it was impossible to hail an Uber in Paris, and the transportation sent out an email to its customer base explaining their decision. “We understand that this can be very annoying for many of you, and please excuse us,” the message read. “But the prime minister’s decision would lead to 10,000 drivers unemployed.”
Of course, the Uber-sanctioned protest is a bit ironic considering the many demonstrations taking place at home, in which drivers have claimed that having a job as an Uber driver is just as bad as being unemployed — accusations of unlivable wages, long hours, and other grievances have been leveled against the San Francisco company for months, and have recently reached a fever pitch on both the west and east coasts of the United States.
But in France (and Europe at large), the struggle is an entirely different one. Regulations across the continent have made it increasingly difficult for Uber and its drivers to establish a firm foothold, and the company claims that this has cost many Europeans potentially gainful employment. Of course, on the flip side, European governments have accused Uber of undercutting licensed taxi drivers, citing unfair advantages, driver poaching, and other questionable business practices.
As for the Uber blackout taking place today, spokesman for Uber France Thomas Meister says things are just beginning. “This is going to last, they won’t let it go,” Meister said of the day’s events. “They [The drivers] will stand up and fight until the end to continue working. It’s as simple as that, they just want to continue working.”