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Toll told to pay owner-drivers $444,000

Toll to pay nine owner-drivers more than $444,000 in compensation for enforcing an unfair contract

By Brad Gardner | July 11, 2012

Toll has been lumped with a compensation payment of more than $444,000 to nine owner-drivers for enforcing an unfair contract in the wake of its takeover of Brambles in 1996.

The Industrial Court of New South Wales has ordered Toll to pay the owner-drivers for denying them the right to sell their trucks and positions, which was known as goodwill and permitted by Brambles.

Upon purchasing Brambles, Toll informed the owner-drivers they would receive the same conditions when they transferred to Toll. It had an unwritten policy against goodwill but did not tell the owner-drivers until they tried to sell their position and assets.

The move sparked a lengthy legal battle, culminating in a ruling earlier this year that found Toll’s actions amounted to “harsh and unconscionable conduct”.

The Industrial Court has now ruled on costs, with Justice Wayne Haylen awarding individual amounts of compensation ranging from $21,600 up to $73,700.

The payments come with interest of up to 20 percent in some cases, and Toll has also been ordered to pay court costs.

“In making this assessment the court has to keep firmly in mind that its obligation is to make a money order that is just in all the circumstances of the case,” Haylen says.

He also varied the contracts for the owner-drivers still working for Toll.

“In essence, that provision removes any right of continuing owner-drivers to sell a truck with work or introduce proposed new drivers and provides a detailed release to the respondents [Toll] from any future claims in relation to the sale of a truck with work,” Haylen writes.

The owner-drivers began legal action in 2005 against Toll. The company was ordered in 2009 to pay compensation but in 2010 it successfully appealed for the case to be reheard.

Haylen ruled on the matter in April this year, saying Toll had an obligation to “frankly and openly” inform the owner-drivers about its stance on goodwill but it chose to ignore the problem instead.

“If Toll had made its policy clear to the drivers prior to sale, at least drivers would have then been placed in the position of being able to decide whether they would accept engagement by Toll under these changed conditions,” he said at the time.

“Toll must now bear the cost of the consequences of its harsh and unconscionable conduct in this regard.”

Following the April ruling, Toll issued a statement saying it was too early for the company to decide if it would appeal the decision.

ATN has contacted Toll for comment.

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