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Ride-share companies Uber and Cabify began offering free rides in Spain Wednesday, due to protests over Madrid's plan to pass new regulations for the industry.

The companies are giving the free rides as a way to protest a royal decree that's set to be approved by the Cabinet Friday.

The decree, likely to be approved by Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez, would move private-hire licensing power to private-hire drivers -- known in Spain as VTC -- from the national government to regional governments.

The change would mean private-hire drivers would also have to apply for a second license from local municipal authorities. Private drivers unable to obtain a second license would no longer be able to operate.

Union representatives at Unauto VTC said 15,000 driving jobs would be at risk if the decree is passed.

Union officials have called for more dialogue and reconciliation to settle the matter, saying it's important "to create space" to settle the interests of private-hire drivers so "there is no loss of employment."

The legislation is the result of opposition from taxi associations, who fear loose regulations for companies like Uber and Cabify make them more difficult to compete with.

Taxi advocates say private drivers don't pay taxes and don't have to pay for the more expensive licenses cab drivers do.

Union-backed private drivers are also considering a work stoppage to protest the pending decree, El Pais reported.
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