Tribunal orders reinstatement of 2 Air Canada pilots

Originally published in the Vancouver Sun on November 8th, 2010. To go to the Vancouver Sun website please click here

OTTAWA — Two former Air Canada pilots fighting the company’s policy of mandatory retirement at age 60 should be reinstated with seniority, the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal ruled Monday.

The tribunal rejected, however, the pilot’s claims for compensation for lost wages dating back to their forced retirement. Instead, it said they should be reimbursed for wages lost since August 28, 2009, the date the tribunal ruled that Air Canada’s mandatory retirement policy was not justified.

It also rejected the pilots request that the tribunal order Air Canada to “cease and desist” making pilots retire at 60.

They also were denied “pain-and-suffering” claims of $20,000 each.

“This is a case of two separate individual complainants with the same complaint,” the ruling said. “It is not a group complaint. What the complainants are asking is to have their remedy extend beyond their individual complaints.”

The decision said Air Canada has agreed to reinstate the two pilots once they complete all training courses to bring them up to speed. The ruling is the latest chapter in a closely watched battle by the two pilots to change the company’s mandatory retirement policy.

Pilots George Vilven and Neil Kelly forced to retired in 2003 and 2005 respectively, accused Air Canada of engaging in discrimination and took their case to the Canadian Human Rights Commission. They sought to be reinstated with full seniority benefits.

Their case has attracted the support of CARP, a leading lobby group on aging issues, and the Fly Past 60 Coalition, which advocates allowing pilots to stay on the job into their sixties. Vilven, now 67 and living in Airdrie, Alta., and Kelly, now 65 and living in Lindsay, Ont., are members of the coalition.

Susan Eng, CARP’s vice-president of advocacy, said the ruling is great for the two pilots but extremely disappointing for others affected by mandatory retirement.

“It’s good news, bad news definitely,” Eng said in an interview.

By refusing to cover all Air Canada pilots, it has left them no choice at this stage but to pursue individual, costly challenges before the tribunal and in the courts.

The case is not over at this stage because Air Canada has appealed the tribunals’ August 2009 ruling.

The Federal Court is expected to hear the case later this month.

© Vancouver Sun

Keywords: mandatory retirement