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Open feud erupts among merged Air Canada pilots
Former Canadian Airlines crew cry discrimination
A feud between Air Canada pilots and pilots from the former Canadian Airlines has erupted following an arbitrator's ruling on seniority.
Angry words - even pushing and shoving in airport corridors - have erupted following the ruling, which Canadian Airlines pilots say puts them far down the newly merged seniority list.
``Hostilities have broken out,'' said Don Paxton, who heads the Air Line Pilots Association, representing the former Canadian Airlines pilots.
He said Air Canada staff have been gloating over the decision.
On a Winnipeg-Toronto flight Monday, a flight attendant announced the decision to passengers and hailed it as a ``big win over the Canadian pilots,'' he said.
``It's not a pleasant environment.''
Paxton said pilots making up to $180,000 a year could be bumped to the rank of first officer, at 60 per cent of their former pay scale.
But Don Johnson, president of the Air Canada Pilots Association, said that's not likely to happen.
He said he doesn't understand the animosity being directed against Air Canada pilots following the decision of arbitrator Morton Mitchnik, who drew up a formula to determine seniority.
``If they have a beef, it's with Mr. Mitchnik,'' Johnson said.
Paxton said the seniority formula means there are three senior Air Canada pilots near the top of the list for every senior Canadian pilot.
The bottom 442 names are nearly all Canadian pilots, he said.
When Air Canada took over Canadian last summer, Air Canada had 2,180 pilots and Canadian had 1,258.
Paxton said the Air Canada bias is so severe that one senior Canadian pilot is ranked below his son, who flies for Air Canada.
His association will seek a judicial review of the arbitrator's award, arguing that statements by Air Canada president Robert Milton interfered with the decision.
Seniority issues could come to a head when Canadian and Air Canada crews are intermingled and assigned to the same aircraft.
Paxton said that could happen as early as June. He's currently flying Boeing 767s but said he figures he'll end up flying the smaller, older Boeing 737s because of the bias.
Air Canada's Laura Cooke said the airline is still working on how to intermingle the crews and reassign aircraft.
Johnson said Mitchnik's decision is fair and recognizes the fact that it was Canadian Airlines, not Air Canada, that was on the brink of failure last summer.
He also said that 300 pilots have been hired since the takeover, all of whom are junior to the Canadian pilots.
Air Canada has pledged that there will be no forced layoffs or relocations resulting from the merger prior to March, 2002.