Electric vehicle courier Packfleet has defended claims that it is trying to fire drivers and force them to become self-employed, saying it was ensuring workers would be paid at least the real living wage.

The company, which actively promotes its sustainability credentials, said some drivers were being unfairly impacted by its current business model and it was attempting to make sure they were paid more money.

But the trade union Unite branded Packfleet’s behaviour as “disgusting” and said it would fight the “hypocritical plans”.

It claimed Packfleet was attempting to sack 30 employed drivers and make them become self-employed and that this contradicted its statement that it would not take advantage of the gig economy.

Tristan Thomas, Packfleet’s CEO, said: “For the past two years, some of our drivers have been paid an hourly rate. This means their earnings have been effectively capped, no matter how many parcels they delivered, unfairly hurting our best drivers.

“With our new, alternative worker model, drivers can ask to deliver more parcels and have busier routes, and their pay will increase accordingly - we continue to use our routing software so no-one will be asked to do more than they can, and ensure quality is as high as it always has been.”

Thomas added: “Under this new model, as well as being entitled to paid holiday and pension contributions, all drivers will continue to be paid at least the real living wage.

“We’re committed to a fair employment model that works for everyone and we strongly believe this meets and exceeds those criteria and is better for our drivers.”

Unite said Packfleet recently secured $10m from venture capitalists to expand its business: “Packfleet’s behaviour to these drivers is disgusting,” said Sharon Graham, Unite general secretary.

“The company’s ethical credentials flew straight out the window, no doubt as soon as the venture capitalists started circling and demanding efficiencies.

“Unite is offering our members complete support in fighting against these pernicious and hypocritical plans.”