Federal Court to weigh in on mandatory retirement age for Air Canada pilots

The Federal Court of Canada says it will conduct a judicial review of a Canadian Human Rights Tribunal decision that challenged the ability of unions and employers to negotiate mandatory retirement ages for all Air Canada pilots.

TORONTO — The Federal Court of Canada says it will conduct a judicial review of a Canadian Human Rights Tribunal decision that challenged the ability of unions and employers to negotiate mandatory retirement ages for all Air Canada pilots.

Hearings will start on Nov. 22 in Ottawa and run until Nov. 25, the court said on Thursday.

The challenge to the tribunal decision was brought by the Air Canada Pilots Association, which wants to continue to negotiate a standard retirement age for pilots. It is currently age 60.

“In our view, the law and previous court decisions clearly support our members’ right to negotiate their age of retirement,” Capt. Paul Strachan, president of the pilots association, said in a statement.

The pilots association asked the federal court to review a decision made in 2009 that it believes “erred at law by ignoring Supreme Court of Canada decisions which found it acceptable for employers and employees to determine a retirement age through the collective bargaining process.”

The tribunal ruled that Air Canada’s contract with the pilots was discriminatory under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. It found that provisions of the Canadian Human Rights Act that allow employers to impose mandatory retirement policies as “bona fide occupational requirements” violated the Charter.

If left unchallenged, the tribunal’s decision would potentially affect the wages and benefits of the Air Canada pilots and thousands of other federally regulated employees working under collective agreements containing a fixed age of retirement, the union said.

The human rights tribunal was responding to a complaint, filed in 2005 by George Vilven, who was forced to retire from his position as an Air Canada Airbus 340 pilot when he turned 60 years of age in 2003.

Vilven and Robert Kelly, who filed a subsequent complaint, had requested reinstatement to their positions, with full seniority, along with damages for lost income, pension and other benefits.

The Air Canada Pilots Association represents more than 3,000 pilots who fly for Canada’s largest airline.