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Unilateral change of roster sounds in damages: WA Industrial Relations Commission.

In Supaworld Pty Ltd v LN Price Partners Pty Ltd (trading as Busselton Freight) the Western Australian Industrial Relations Commission has held that unilaterally changing a roster was a breach of contract giving rise to damages.
The applicant is a business which owns and operates trucks which transport groceries to stores in Perth. In October and December 2009 the applicant and the respondent exchanged letters whereby the applicant agreed to assign its two ‘cold store’ contracts to the respondent.

The Road Freight Transport Industry Tribunal held today that the agreements, on their proper construction, obliged the respondent to allocate predominantly cold store work to the applicant.
The Tribunal considered that the letter of October 2009 was ambiguous, so extrinsic evidence of the surrounding circumstances and the object and purpose of the transaction was referred to in objectively determining the parties’ intentions. The terms of the October 2009 agreement were implied into the December 2009 agreement.
The Tribunal held that the respondent breached the agreement in 2010 by changing the roster to shift one of the applicant’s contracts to the ‘dry store’. The Tribunal awarded the applicant damages in the sum of $69,600 for its expected earnings.
This matter was also the first time the Tribunal considered the unconscionable conduct provisions in the Owner-Drivers (Contracts and Disputes) Act 2007.

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