Air Canada Pilots Win Ageism Case

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Air Canada must re-hire two pilots who were forced to retire at age 60, according to a ruling this week by the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal. However, the tribunal stopped short of extending the ruling to apply to all Air Canada pilots. "It's good news, bad news, definitely," said Susan Eng, vice president of advocacy at the Canadian Association of Retired Persons. Pilot George Vilven, who is now 67, will be reinstated with full seniority as Air Canada's oldest employee. Neil Kelly, 65, also gets his job back. Both will be qualified to fly as first officer on the Boeing 777. Both also will be compensated for at least some of their lost wages, though a request for $20,000 each for "pain and suffering" was denied. Air Canada and the Air Canada Pilots Association appealed the ruling to federal court. A hearing will be held later this month.

Paul Strachan, president of the pilots association, said his group, which represents nearly 3,000 pilots, believes retirement age should be determined by agreement between the company and the union. A recent survey of the group's membership showed that 80 percent want to keep the retirement age at 60 or even younger, Strachan said. The Fly Past 60 Coalition, which advocates changing the mandatory retirement age for pilots, said this week's decision marks a "major turning point." The decision, along with two more rulings expected soon from the tribunal and the Federal Court, "will forever change the landscape of mandatory retirement in Canada," the group said at its website. More than 100 pilots have complaints pending to the Human Rights Tribunal.