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October 18, 2018

Workers Across the Country Defend the Dignity of Labour
and the Rights of All

Key Issues Remain Unresolved in
Postal Workers' Fight

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September 28, 2018 postal workers across the country gathered outside their workplaces to tell Canada Post "Times Running Out: Negotiate Now!" Photo from Scarborough, Ontario.

Key Issues Remain Unresolved at Post Office
Canadian Union of Postal Workers Issues 72-Hour Strike Notice - Louis Lang

Fight of Airline Workers for Air Transport Safety
Canadian Airline Pilots Step Up Campaign for Fatigue Reduction Measures

Right to Health Care in Nova Scotia
Nova Scotians in Action to Defend What Belongs to Them by Right - Kevin Corkill

Fight Against the Anti-Social Offensive in Quebec
Public Service Unions Warn Government Against Cutting Public
Sector Jobs - Pierre Chénier

Right to a Livelihood in Ontario
Day of Action Says No! to Ford Government's Threats to Rescind Bill 148

Education Support Workers in Northern Alberta Defend Their Rights!
Striking Education Support Workers in Living Waters Catholic School District Reach Agreement - Peggy Askin

Forestry Workers in Northern BC Uphold the Dignity of Labour
Northern BC Sawmill Workers Strike Against Anti-Labour Concessions


Key Issues Remain Unresolved at Post Office

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Prince George, BC, September 28, 2018

After nearly 11 months of negotiations, including a period of conciliation, the National Executive Board of the Canadian Union of Postal Workers on October 16, issued a "72-hour strike notice" to Canada Post for both the Rural and Suburban Mail Carriers (RSMCs) and urban units. The RSMC collective agreement expired December 31, 2017 while that of the urban units expired January 31. According to a bulletin issued by the union, "the strike will begin on Monday morning, October 22, at 00:01 should we not have reached negotiated settlements."

The National Executive Board also announced it has opted for rotating strikes and as yet has not declared any locations or indicated the intensity of the rotating strikes. The union appears hopeful to continue negotiating up to the deadline in an effort to reach a settlement.

In a bulletin to postal workers, the negotiating committees for both the RSMCs and urban units report that after such lengthy negotiations and in spite of all the efforts of the union many of the key issues remain unresolved and the two parties are "still far apart on many of your demands."

Key unresolved issues:

1) Canada Post proposes a 1.5 per cent wage increase for each year of a four-year contract, retroactive to February 1. This falls below the current rate of inflation of around 2.5 per cent.

2) The issues of letter carrier overburdening and route updates are not resolved. Solutions must be found to solve physically damaging workloads affecting letter carriers. A large part of the problem is due to the reckless actions of Canada Post to shift the burden of the massive increase in parcel volumes onto the backs of letter carriers and inside workers. The large profits reported by Canada Post in the past few years have been achieved by intensifying the exploitation of the workers through forcing fewer workers to carry greater workloads. This includes forced overtime and sacrificing the health and safety of the workers. Canada Post workers also anticipate an even greater workload from the home delivery of legal cannabis Internet sales.

3) Job security and attempts of Canada Post to introduce more precarious work are serious issues. In Group 2 (outside workers), the corporation wants the right not to fill positions as they become vacant so that it can eliminate positions whenever the corporation wants to declare them surplus. In Group 1 (inside workers), Canada Post wants the creation of full-time "flex" positions where workers can be scheduled to work a minimum of four hours to a maximum of 12 hours per day. This dangerous proposal would allow the corporation to get away with not creating any real full-time positions when the hours worked clearly require full-time work. This would be a significant roll-back from the present requirements of the collective agreement.

4) For Groups 3 and 4 (technical services), Canada Post proposes new wage charts in an attempt to combine some of the present classifications into new classifications. This is being discussed but the information given is very general and unclear as to how the proposals of the corporation will affect wages and which classifications will be eliminated.

The union is also stressing the need to address workplace injuries, which over the last two years have increased by 43 per cent. An October 16 union press release states, "Today, the disabling injury rate for a letter carrier is eight times the average of the rest of the federal sector, which includes longshoring, mining, road transport and railways."

For RSMCs, even though the union's grievance on pay equity for rural workers has been won, Canada Post still refuses to change the Route Measurement system. This key change is required for RSMCs to receive minimum guaranteed hours and be paid for all hours worked. As well, RSMCs insist they be paid directly by Canada Post when on work-related accident leave, in the same way as urban carriers and inside workers.


St. John's Newfoundland, September 28, 2018


Peterborough, Ontario, September 28, 2018


Toronto, Ontario, September 28, 2018.

(Photos: CUPW)

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Fight of Airline Workers for Air Transport Safety

Canadian Airline Pilots Step Up Campaign
for Fatigue Reduction Measures

Potentially deadly 2017 incident throws light on airline workers'
long struggle against unsafe practices

The Air Canada Pilots Association (ACPA) and the Safer Skies coalition, together representing 9,000 Canadian airline passenger and cargo pilots, are stepping up their campaign for modern fatigue reduction measures. This follows the release of a study of a potentially tragic incident that took place in 2017 at San Francisco's main airport.

In that incident an Air Canada plane arriving from Toronto nearly landed on a secondary runway where four large carriers filled with passengers were awaiting takeoff. Only four metres separated Air Canada's Airbus A320 and one of the four airplanes parked on the runway. The pilots were able to divert their plane at the last second to avoid a catastrophe.

The U.S. National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) found Air Canada pilot fatigue to be a main factor in the near disaster, (notwithstanding the mental acuity displayed by the pilots to avert the imminent disaster). The NTSB report states that the pilot in charge of the flight had been awake for 19 consecutive hours and his co-pilot for 12. Neither had napped during the flight in accordance with Transport Canada's current regulations.

The NTSB also noted that the manner in which messages are transmitted to pilots by airline companies can cause confusion. On July 7, 2017 the runway configuration at the San Francisco airport had been changed due to repairs. This type of information is relayed by transporters to pilots through messages often written in technical language that is difficult to decipher. During this incident, the runway configuration changes were found on page 8 of a 10-page document, the presentation of which uses language resembling computer programming.

Demands of the Air Canada Pilots Association (ACPA)

In a September 26 press release, ACPA highlights the main demands that Canadian pilots have made to Transport Canada with regard to fatigue reduction. The ACPA writes:

"ACPA has joined other pilot groups in calling on the Canadian government to stop years of delays and fix the flawed regulations, including by taking the following steps:

"Address pilot fatigue on long-haul flights at night by limiting duty periods for flights in the evening to 8.5 hours of flight time -- in line with NASA research findings;

"Ensure that any Fatigue Risk Management System relies on science-based prescriptive limits as a foundation, requiring independently verifiable data and stringent Transport Canada approval and oversight before deviating from the maximum duty period; and

"Pilots on all sizes of aircraft -- whether they carry passengers or cargo -- should have the same protective fatigue limits, implemented at the same time."

None of these measures elaborated by the pilots, the very people we entrust with our safety when we travel by plane, is anywhere to be found in the draft regulations published by Transport Canada in July. According to ACPA, the demands of the pilots are in line with what science and international practice recommend and must be included in Transport Canada regulations.

Measures on Fatigue Proposed by Transport Canada

The Safer Skies coalition has issued a number of criticisms with regard to Transport Canada's work hours for flight crews and rest periods. The pilots believe the big air carriers are complaining that proposed measures to regulate work hours will lower their profits and create a crisis in scheduling. According to Safer Skies, pressure from the companies is seen in Transport Canada downgrading its already totally unsatisfactory proposals.

The pilots criticize the proposed regulations to allow pilots to fly up to 10.5 hours at night on long-haul flights. The proposals compromise sleep both when returning to home base after an overseas flight and for duty periods that begin at night. They demand that duty periods for flights in the evening be set at 8.5 hours of flight time.

The draft regulations propose to allow 112 hours of flight time in less than 28 days. The pilots demand a maximum flight time of 100 hours in 28 days, which accords with the global standard of 100 hours or less. Under the proposed regulations, Canada will be one of only three countries that permit professional pilots to fly more than 100 hours in a single 28-day period. The two other countries are India and Bangladesh.

Regarding maximum duty time over a year, the draft regulations impose a maximum duty time of 2,400 hours resulting in Canada having the highest duty time limits in the world. For reference, the European Union has maximum duty time of 1,900-2,000 hours a year. According to the Canadian pilots, duty limits must also reflect time of day sensitivity and ensure that adequate rest recovery is provided, which is not the case with Transport Canada's proposed regulations.

The pilots point out that the system of reporting fatigue contained in the proposed regulations permits reprisal and punishment against workers. They insist the reporting of fatigue must be done without fear of reprisal. As no explicit safeguards or protections exist in the proposed regulations, pilots who declare themselves fatigued are exposed to the whims of vindictive operators. Pilots say they will only support a regulatory system if it provides professional pilots with protection from reprisals when they report fatigue and other safety issues. This insistence of the pilots reveals in itself the extent to which the problem of reprisals has gone, which is similar to the situation for railway workers.

The pilots also firmly oppose the Fatigue Risk Management System (FRMS) within the proposed new regulations, which contains limits already deemed unacceptable by pilots. They also point out that almost every prescriptive limit set out in the draft regulations can be bypassed, without regulatory oversight or approval.

The FRMS allows carriers to exempt themselves from the rules according to their own business plans and considerations dictated by the aim for maximum profit. The pilots' unions say, "This will allow operators to place commercial considerations ahead of safety concerns, thereby creating an unacceptably low margin of safety for Canadian air passengers and for those communities and neighbourhoods near airports." By the government's own estimation, it expects airline operators to implement the FRMS on as low as 20 per cent of regulated flights. This means a significant percentage of flights would essentially have no effective regulatory oversight.

In its backgrounder on the proposed regulations, Transport Canada shamelessly presents the fatigue risk management systems as something positive rather than the perpetuation of company self-regulation. It writes: "Fatigue Risk Management Systems allow air operators to adapt policies, procedures and practices to manage fatigue risk in an operation. Fatigue Risk Management Systems provide operators, including those who provide cargo services, more flexibility as long as they can demonstrate an equivalent level of safety. For example: an air operator could be permitted to fly longer than the prescribed flight duty time limit if they can meet Fatigue Risk Management Systems requirements and show that alertness and fatigue will not be affected."

"Manage fatigue risk" and "providing the operators with more flexibility" are the criminal neo-liberal mantra of risk management and efficiency to guarantee higher profits for the monopolies. This self-regulation in the name of profits and efficiency is being imposed on workers, their communities and the entire country. This flies in the face of a modern practice and outlook to eliminate hazards and harm to people and nature by ensuring those who do the work have the decisive say in how work is carried out, within an overall aim to humanize the workplace and social and natural environment.

The smug language of Transport Canada shows that this government, as was the case with the Harper government before it, refuses to take up its social responsibility to force the air carriers to operate with the highest possible standards of health and safety as a matter of principle according to the demands and modern outlook of those who do the work.

The pilots and other airline workers are taking up this fight for an enlightened and modern outlook and approach in regulating air transport. The near disaster in San Francisco shows the importance of not backing down in this struggle. All Canadian workers should applaud and support the pilots in this battle with Transport Canada and use this example to step up their own struggles for a new direction for the economy under the control of those who do the work.

(Photos: #saferskies)


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Right to Health Care in Nova Scotia

Nova Scotians in Action to Defend What
Belongs to Them by Right


Shelburne, October 13, 2018

Actions were held across rural Nova Scotia on October 13, to defend public health care and claim it as a right. The situation in most rural areas has reached a crisis level. The governing McNeil Liberals have made the problems worse with announcements of the closures of Northside General in North Sydney and New Waterford Consolidated hospitals. This follows a pattern of the anti-social offensive to close hospitals and replace them with reduced services and pathetic alternatives. Rural residents of Cape Breton already face drives of up to 40 minutes to see a doctor with many having no alternative but to go to a distant ER for their medical needs.

The government says some of the services currently being performed at the two hospitals slated for closure will be moved to the Cape Breton Regional Hospital in Sydney. The hospital there has the second largest ER in the province and already lacks sufficient staffing levels to cope with the myriad problems and current health care needs of residents.

Nova Scotia doctors, nurses and other professionals in the health field have put forward many demands and ideas to address the growing problems in health care. However, as in all other areas of life under the imperialist system, their concerns and ideas fall on deaf ears. Whatever does not suit the demands and private interests of the rich and their government representatives simply does not garner any consideration.

At the demonstration in Sydney to defend public health care, Dr. Margaret Anne Fraser put forward her ideas of what needs to be done including recruitment, a physician resource plan for flexibility, and long-term care beds through construction of nursing homes, which could later be turned into sustainable housing units as needs change etc.

Expressing optimism in the capacity of the people to solve problems if given the chance but warning of the menace of inaction, Dr. Fraser said, "I don't think the system is broken, but I do think the system is dangerously overstretched."

Doctor Stephanie Langley and three other local physicians addressed the rally in North Sydney. "Since this new health authority has taken shape it feels like we are constantly working an uphill battle and decisions about your health care are being made by executives that live in Halifax; there is a flagrant disregard for the opinions of physicians who work in these communities," Dr. Langley said.

Dr. Langley identified the problem of "Who Decides." How is it that the people who are experts in their field, do the work and know the problems do not have a conduit to implement the solutions they propose and bring them to fruition? Who is blocking the working people from solving problems, and depriving them of their right to modern health care?

Those in positions of political power refuse to listen to the voices of the people who demand their rights. The governing elite obstruct medical workers from fulfilling the people's right to health care just as they impede teachers and other education workers from meeting the needs of students and the people's right to education.

A governing system that deprives the people of the rights they possess by virtue of being human brings it no honour and reveals to all that democratic renewal to empower the people is the order of the day. Through their actions to defend and claim the right to health care, Nova Scotians express their determination and resolve to empower themselves and build the new.


Digby, October 13, 2018.


Windsor, October 13, 2018

(Photos: Save Our Rural Healthcare)

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Fight Against the Anti-Social Offensive in Quebec

Public Service Unions Warn Government Against Cutting Public Sector Jobs

In a press briefing on Monday, October 15, unions and community organizations warned the Legault government that its commitment to cut 5,000 public sector jobs is unacceptable. They also called for the adoption of measures against precarious working conditions, which are becoming more prevalent in Quebec, as elsewhere in Canada. Their demands include an immediate increase in the minimum wage to $15 per hour, at least five days advance notice on work schedules and at least 10 paid days off for sick leave and family reasons for all workers in Quebec.

During this press briefing, Christian Daigle, President of the Quebec Public Service Union (SFPQ), declared that the erosion of the public service during the Couillard government years has already resulted in a serious decrease in services in the regions, which must be reversed.

"Cuts to the public service means cutting right to the bone, as for a long time now there has been no fat left to cut," said Richard Perron, President of the Quebec Government Professionals Union (SPGQ).

Perron was referring to Premier Legault's statement that by reducing the number of public service workers he aims to reduce "waste" that, in his opinion, exists and claims this will not affect services. This is a mantra of the neo-liberal anti-social offensive, the so-called differentiation between administrative services and direct services to the population, to justify the dismantling of public services as a whole and their privatization.

Result of Cuts in the Ministries of Transport and Public Safety

The Ministry of Transport has been one of the most heavily cut ministries since the early 1990s. Its staff has been cut by about half and a great deal of its activities have been transferred to the private sector along with the staff itself. As well, experienced civil safety personnel working within the Ministry of Public Safety were encouraged to leave and the number of technicians and the workforce have seen an absolute reduction from 2004 to 2016.

This was clearly seen in the Public Safety and Transport ministries' disastrous management during the snow storm that hit Quebec from March 11 to 16, 2017. Hundreds of people were stuck in their cars on a highway for periods ranging from four to 13 hours, without assistance except for motorists helping each other out and firefighters directly intervening as a result of the absence of intervention by the relevant departments. At least six people died during that period in various Quebec regions.

Public sector and other workers oppose such wrecking, both on their own behalf and on ours.

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Right to a Livelihood in Ontario

Day of Action Says No! to Ford Government's
Threats to Rescind Bill 148


Rally at Ministry of Labour, October 15, 2018.

A province-wide Day of Action was held on October 15 to tell the Ford government to keep their hands off changes to labour law made in the Fair Workplaces, Better Jobs Act, 2017.

Close to 50 pickets, rallies, and outreach blitzes were organized across the province by the $15 and Fairness Campaign in collaboration with the Ontario Federation of Labour and its member unions. Unifor also encouraged its members to participate in the protests.

A rally was held at the Ministry of Labour in Toronto. Various speakers pointed out that the changes in wages and working conditions contained in Bill 148, while hardly adequate to live properly in a city like Toronto, nevertheless make a big difference in the lives of many of the working poor -- minority workers and women workers, two-thirds of whom are working part-time and multiple jobs. A contingent of women steelworkers, many in Toronto for a Women of Steel conference, participated in the rally.

In conjunction with these protests OPSEU held actions at community colleges to mark the one year anniversary of the college faculty strike. Actions were scheduled at all college campuses rejecting attempts by numerous colleges to deny workers the right to hold union events "of a political nature" on campus.

"We are defending the rights of workers as upheld in Bill 148, the Fair Workplaces, Better Jobs Act, including a $15 dollar minimum wage, equal pay for equal work, and sick leave for temporary and contract workers. If the colleges want to prohibit workers from speaking up about our rights, they have to know they have all of OPSEU to deal with," said OPSEU President Warren (Smokey) Thomas.

In September, Labour Minister Laurie Scott threatened to stop the increase in minimum wage to $15 per hour legislated to come into effect January 1, 2019 and, speaking in the legislature on October 2, Premier Doug Ford repeated that threat. In elaboration, Economic Development Minister Jim Wilson stated the Fair Workplaces, Better Jobs Act, 2017 was under review and that parts of the legislation "will probably go."

In the lead-up to the October 15 Day of Action, the $15 and Fairness campaign pointed out "Unless backed by legislative action, these kinds of statements can be understood as ‘trial balloons.' Governments release statements to gauge the public's response to an initiative. How the public responds helps the government decide whether to proceed, pull back or go even further. That's why what we do now really matters." They are planning further mobilizations.

Ottawa


Peterborough

Ajax

Newmarket


North Bay

Georgian College, Barrie


George Brown College, Toronto


Toronto, Ministry of Labour


University of Toronto


Parkdale

York University

Mississauga


Brampton


Hamilton


St. Catharines

Waterloo

Guelph


London


Tillsonburg


Sault College, Sault Ste Marie

(Photos: Workers' Forum, $15 & Fairness, OPSEU College Faculty, USW District 6, YUGSA, M. Holden)

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Education Support Workers in Northern Alberta Defend Their Rights!

Striking Education Support Workers in Living Waters Catholic School District Reach Agreement

After two and a half years of negotiations and an 18-day strike, education workers employed by the Living Waters Catholic School Division have voted to accept the mediator's recommendations for settlement. The school board has also accepted the report, and the workers returned to work October 17.

Support staff with Living Waters Catholic Schools work in the communities of Edson, Slave Lake and Whitecourt, to the west and northwest of Edmonton. They began strike action on September 28 after the school board applied for a lockout. The workers, members of Alberta Union of Provincial Employees (AUPE) Local 71, work as educational assistants in the classrooms, assist students in the libraries, maintain and clean the schools and provide all the necessary administrative support for the schools to function. AUPE points out that "Kids need support in school. Learning starts with safe spaces, access to books, clean hallways, familiar faces, mentors who understand students' needs, and an organized office." The workers' working conditions are students' learning conditions.

AUPE Local 71 had been in bargaining since 2016, and stood united in their demand for an agreement that would provide stable, defined hours of work and a predictable, constant work year. They were also fighting for wage increases that recognize the rising cost of living and better reflect the value of the work they do.

The support staff took strike action to bring an end to the situation where they are being asked to do more with less, as hours are being cut and class sizes continue to grow, AUPE Vice-President Rod Feland said. "Support staff are working unstable hours, which is depriving students of a consistent routine and the resources they need to excel in a safe and supportive learning environment," Feland said.

The new agreement guarantees regular full-time employees at least the same number of workdays as instructional days for students in a year. The mediator's recommendations also include guaranteed minimum daily hours of work for all classifications.

Under the previous agreement, workers had no guaranteed hours of work. The "normal" length of the working day and hours per week established for each classification could be arbitrarily increased or decreased by the employer. The "normal hours" were also averaged over an entire school year rather than a pay period. Precarious work not only causes hardship for workers, it creates a chaotic situation for the students which has a real and significant impact on their learning conditions.

"The more than 120 Living Waters staff AUPE proudly represents have always known the value of their work, because they know the worth of their students and the importance of quality education, which these members help provide every single day," said Feland.

Through their actions, the workers and their communities took a stand that Education Is a Right!

Students walked out on September 28 at St. Joseph School in Whitecourt to join a workers' rally outside. They continued to join the picket line before and after class and on spares, as did the students at Holy Redeemer in Edson and St. Francis of Assisi in Slave Lake. Parents are posting videos on You Tube explaining how much they respect and value the education workers who work with their kids with special needs. On October 9, a woman who identified herself as a grandmother, interrupted negotiations in order to deliver a letter to the superintendent. She told the education defenders on the picket line, "I can't even begin to tell you how much I support what you're doing out here." These are but a few examples of the support and encouragement the workers received.

Congratulations to the workers at Living Waters for their stand and to their communities which provided outstanding support throughout the strike.


(Photos: AUPE)

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Forestry Workers in Northern BC Uphold the Dignity of Labour

Northern BC Sawmill Workers Strike Against Anti-Labour Concessions


Picket line at Tolko in Williams Lake, October 16, 2018. (M. Lamb-Yorksi)

On October 16, Northern BC sawmill workers, members of USW Local 1-2017, began rotating strikes with a picket line at Tolko's Lakeview Lumber in Williams Lake. Their aim is to force sawmill owners represented by the Council on Northern Interior Forest Employment Relations (CONIFER) to withdraw their demands for anti-labour concessions. Local 1-2017 President Brian O'Rourke, pointed out that "this is step two of our process and currently our plan is to continue and maintain rotating strikes throughout the CONIFER member companies." CONIFER companies include Canfor, Conifex, Tolko, Hampton Affiliates, Dunkley Lumber, West Fraser and Lakeland Mills and are spread across the Central and Northern Interior of the province.

The workers' collective agreement expired on June 30. At the end of September, the union bargaining committee sat down with CONIFER companies for five days of mediation but was faced with CONIFER's persistence in demanding the negotiations focus on concessions. The local asked the mediator to book out and directed all workers to cease working overtime as of October 6, the first step of their labour action. In August, workers voted 93 per cent in favour of a strike mandate. On October 3, the union served a 72-hour strike notice and has been in a legal strike position since October 6.

Among the major demands for concessions made by CONIFER are:

- a six-year contract
- provocative wage increases with four years at 0.5 per cent and two years at 1.5 per cent, far below the rate of inflation
- a new hire rate starting at 85 per cent of job rate
- forcing workers on alternative shifts to work their statutory holidays for straight time
- doubling the probation period for new employees from 30 to 60 days
- refusing to allow members to have union representation for meetings that could lead to discipline
- shifting cost of benefits to workers

Paul French, 1st Vice President of USW Local 1-2017, said that "the company wants to claw back things that we fought for and have won years ago." In response to the employers' actions, President Brian O'Rourke said that workers plan to strategically hit CONIFER companies and "get them back to the [bargaining] table."

CONIFER is demanding these concessions despite high prices persisting for softwood lumber in the recent period. Although prices have come down in recent weeks, they were as high as $650 per 1,000 board-feet in June. In 2017, West Fraser reported a $596 million profit while Canfor had $345 million in profits, up from $151 million in 2016.

CONIFER executive director Mike Bryce said that the forest companies' aim is for an agreement that takes into account the "long-term realities of a cyclical industry" rather than current market conditions.

Workers reject this self-serving argument and say that they have the right to negotiated working conditions that are commensurate with the work they do. They can certainly not base their demands on the trials and tribulations of an industry based on the pursuit of narrow private profit for the monopolies.

(With files from USW Local 1-2017, Williams Lake Tribune and Prince George Citizen)

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