Taxi drivers staged strikes across Italy yesterday in the first wave of protest against Prime Minister Romano Prodi's deregulation plans, causing transport chaos.
Prodi's new centre-left government on Friday announced surprise measures to cut red tape and boost competition for taxi drivers, public transport firms, lawyers and pharmacists.
Prodi plans to increase the number of taxi licences and issue temporary permits, a move that was welcomed by consumer groups as a step towards bringing down taxi fares.
The reforms will also allow private companies to run public transport services and supermarkets to sell painkillers, while lawyers will be banned from imposing minimum fees.
Yesterday, travellers were left stranded at airports and flights were delayed as taxi drivers blocked roads and refused to accept passengers.
"There will be a national strike on July 11, but until then taxi drivers in all cities will move as they see fit to express their anger," said Ermanno Simiani, president of the CAT taxi drivers' union in Bologna.
"If all these licences are issued, there could be people coming into our world who can't be trusted by passengers. We have mothers trusting us to carry their children, sick people who call a taxi because it's safe," he added.
Some 300 taxi drivers staged a protest at Milan's Linate airport, news agency ANSA reported, where Italian President Giorgio Napolitano was due on his way to a stock market conference.
In Turin, taxi drivers blocked Caselle airport and several flights left late as they waited for travellers to arrive on foot or by public transport.
There were no taxis at Rome's Fiumicino airport. A private limousine service was so overbooked that it only took passengers with reservations.
At the weekend, taxis operated during the day but left revellers stranded at night.
In Milan, women in high heels stumbled down cobbled streets, mobile phones glued to their ears trying to track down one of the taxi services in vain.
The government plans to take the reforms further, liberalizing the energy market and introducing a tender system for public services from waste collection to gas supplies.
Source: China Daily