"Even under the district court's injunction mandating USAPA to pursue the Nicolau Award, it is uncertain that the west pilots' preferred seniority system ever would be effectuated," the appeals court said. It is possible that USAPA will eventually implement a contract "that does not work the disadvantages plaintiffs fear, even if that proposal is not the Nicolau Award."

Johnson wrote that the appeals court did not expressly rule on the seniority dispute and did not say "whether USAPA and the company would be exposed to legal liability if the union and the company agreed to a non-Nicolau seniority list." Rather, he said, the appeals court's decision clearly allows for "a future valid legal claim against a seniority list agreement that did not include the Nicolau award."

-- Written by Ted Reed in Charlotte, N.C. .

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