Flight International online news 12:00GMT: Air Canada is denying that a breakdown in mediated talks to resolve Air Canada’s pilot seniority dispute will affect the carrier’s already troubled purchase of Boeing 777s and 787s.

The seniority dispute was created when Canadian Airlines was acquired by Air Canada in 2000. Under the deal, Canadian Airlines employees retained seniority, against the wishes of Air Canada staff.

Because of this, Air Canada has had to temporarily cancel a significant aircraft order that forms the basis of its post-bankruptcy reorganization and expansion. The deal faltered after the Air Canada Pilots Association (ACPA) rejected a new labor contract until the seniority issue was resolved.

Mediation, which was announced in August, was expected to end the dispute. However, a group under the banner of ‘Former Canadian Pilots’ today said its members would not take part in the talks.

“The decision of former Canadian [Airlines] pilots not to participate in a mediation before a third party neutral, Martin Teplitsky is regrettable. Mr Teplitsky is well respected for his ability and neutrality,” says Air Canada in a statement.

However it adds: “The 777/787 issue is a separate issue and a process for its resolution has already been determined. A separate award irrespective of seniority issues will be rendered by arbitration in due course. One is not tied to the other.”

This opinion is contrary to that held by 1,200 former Canadian pilots. In its statement the group says: “Re-opening the seniority issue is simply Air Canada responding to what amounts to blackmail by its former Air Canada pilots, who the company wants to appease so they will accept the acquisition of new Boeing 777/787s.”

“In 2003, Air Canada management, original Air Canada pilots and former Canadian Airlines pilots all agreed that the pilot seniority award of arbitrator Brian Keller would be ‘final and binding’. This move shows a troubling disrespect for the law. We trust the CIRB (Canadian Industrial Relations Board) will unequivocally reject this appeal,” it adds, noting that a back down now could endanger 1,000s of positions held by former Canadian Airlines employees across the ACE Aviation Holdings portfolio, which includes Air Canada.

An ACPA representative was not immediately available.

Source: Flight International