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TRANSPORTATION REPORTER

The Air Canada Pilots Association is seeking to maintain retirement at age 60, asking the Federal Court for a judicial review of a decision by the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal that questions the union's contract with the airline.

Last month, the tribunal paved the way for Air Canada to potentially raise its mandatory retirement age for pilots to 65.

"The health status of older people is improving, and the physical demands of most jobs falling. People are capable of working longer and many of them need to, for financial reasons," the tribunal said in its 30-page decision. "We have concluded that it can no longer be said that the goal of leaving mandatory retirement to be negotiated in the workplace is sufficiently pressing and substantial to warrant the infringement of equality rights."

But ACPA is countering that most of its union members favour retiring at age 60, not 65. "We believe the tribunal 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 union said in a statement yesterday.

Air Canada has also asked the Federal Court for a judicial review, saying the tribunal has raised complex legal issues that need to be clarified.

Two former Air Canada pilots, George Vilven and Neil Kelly, alleged that they were forced to retire at age 60. Mr. Vilven, 66, and Mr. Kelly, 64, are part of the Fly Past 60 Coalition. They argued that Air Canada discriminated against them on the basis of age.

In 2007, the tribunal originally dismissed the case filed by Mr. Vilven and Mr. Kelly. But earlier this year, the Federal Court directed the tribunal to rehear the complaints.

Captain Brian Murray, chairman of ACPA's age 60 legal support committee, said the tribunal's decision creates uncertainty among Air Canada's 3,000 pilots and he fears it could also have ripple effects across other federally regulated employees. "The contractual retirement age and associated post-employment benefits are cornerstones of our collective agreement, which has supported Air Canada pilots' careers for decades," Capt. Murray said in a statement.

AIR CANADA (AC.B)

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