New Zealand’s major pilots union has failed to overturn a court ruling in a long-running pay dispute with Air New Zealand.

The country’s Supreme Court rejected the union’s claim that a lower court, which had previously ruled in favor of Air New Zealand, did not have jurisdiction. The challenge had been filed by the New Zealand Air Line Pilots Association (NZALPA).

The original dispute related to a 2013 pay rise granted by Air New Zealand to Boeing 737 pilots represented by a smaller union, the Federation of Air New Zealand Pilots (FANZP). NZALPA claimed that a clause in its own contract required the airline to award a matching increase to its members. However, Air New Zealand disputed this interpretation.

Air New Zealand’s argument was accepted by the Employment Relations Authority, but the Employment Courtreversed this decision. The airline brought the case to the Court of Appeals, which sided with the original ruling in the airline’s favor.

This prompted NZALPA to send the case to the Supreme Court, on the basis that the Appeals Court went outside its jurisdiction in overturning the Employment Court decision. However, a majority of judges on the Supreme Court panel ruled the NZALPA appeal should be dismissed.

Following the latest decision, NZALPA stressed this issue is “fundamentally important for our pilots.” The union said that “a continuing two-tier contractual approach remains an upsetting issue for many pilots, who feel they are treated differently to their colleagues just because they choose to belong to a highly supportive professional organization.”

NZALPA highlighted the fact that the Supreme Court did not rule that Air New Zealand’s interpretation of the contract was correct. Because of this, the union “will be considering our options for having the contractual interpretation issue re-examined by the Employment Court.”

For its part, Air New Zealand said it has “a very constructive ongoing relationship” with its pilot unions, with “a number of collaborative initiatives currently underway.” The airline added that “it’s pleasing to now have this ongoing matter resolved by the Supreme Court so we can focus on the future.”

Adrian Schofield/Aviation Daily