Unite has launched legal action against two agencies, used by Wincanton and the Co-op, which the union claims are using “sham and bogus” self-employment practices.

The claim was served against ADR Network and PPF by Unite on behalf of HGV driver Gary Sharrock. He drives for the agencies on a Co-op contract run by Wincanton from its Lea Green depot in Merseyside.

According to Unite, Sharrock’s request for annual leave was refused in July. Sharrock said he is entitled to be paid statutory annual leave and is claiming holiday pay under the 1998 Working Time Regulations; a claim for the unlawful deduction from wages under the 1996 Employment Rights Act; and a claim for pay parity under the Agency Workers Regulations 2010.

The union claimed that ADR and PPF do “engage employees on a PAYE basis,” but that Sharrock “was not afforded that option,” and had to set up his own company in order to work on the contract.

The claim also states that Sharrock set up Sharrock Transport but does not own his own truck or have any form of public liability insurance and that the responsibility for the maintenance, insurance and fuel of the truck “lies elsewhere”.

Unite national officer Adrian Jones said: “It is clear that Gary is doing the same job as those working for ADR and PPF on more secure conditions. We strongly believe that Gary is a victim of sham employment – and this is not acceptable, hence the submission to the employment tribunal.”

A Wincanton spokesman said: “We can confirm that Wincanton uses agency drivers to cover peak demand and other short term requirements, via agencies such as ADR. We cannot comment on the agency’s contractual relationships with its drivers – it is a matter for them, but they are obliged to operate within all relevant legislation.”

Jones said the case was “the tip of the iceberg” in terms of bogus employment practices, warning that such practices lead to “a serious erosion” of driver terms and conditions.

Unite legal services assistant general secretary Howard Beckett, said: “This also has implications for our member’s right to sick pay and a pension and it is a brazen attempt to circumvent the Agency Worker Regulations 2010.

“The Agency Worker Regulations require agencies to pay workers the same rates as the client’s employed workforce, in this case Wincanton but, at other Co-op depots, directly employed Co-op drivers.

“Failing to do so not only fleeces workers who are forced to undertake precarious agency work, but it undermines and undercuts the employed workforce.

The case will be heard at Manchester Employment Tribunal early next year.

The Co-op declined to comment.

Earlier this year the Work and Pensions Committee said operators using self-employed drivers should change their business models.