- The Observer,
- Sunday December 23 2007
For five years cycle courier Paul Whieldon, 40, careered around London's streets working for CitySprint, a publicly quoted company and one of the country's biggest dispatch firms.
In that time he claims to been hospitalised in a road accident and have collapsed with exhaustion delivering packages in all weathers.
This Christmas, the history graduate asked the firm to be excused from working on Christmas Eve. Not only did he need to be in Stoke-on-Trent, it was his girlfriend's 40th birthday too.
CitySprint did not just turn down the request - the firm, which has an annual turnover of £46m, sacked him.
Now the GMB union is intent on taking Whieldon's case to an industrial tribunal to prove that he is an employee, rather than self-employed.
'There are 1,500 people working for CitySprint who are characterised as sub-contractors,' the GMB said this weekend. 'We're seeking to use this case as a precedent to establish that the firm employs these people and owe a duty of care to them.'
CitySprint said in a statement to the GMB: 'We decided to end our business relationship with Paul for, amongst other matters, performance-related issues. Selection and retention criteria for cycle couriers are very competitive.'