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Strike Against FairPoint Continues as Nor’easter Approaches

FairPoint Communications

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Strikers fear replacement workers can’t handle complications of looming storm

Manchester, NH—Tuesday marks the fifth day of a strike against FairPoint Communications by nearly 2,000 members of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) and the Communications Workers of America (CWA). The strike began last Friday after FairPoint walked out of negotiations and unilaterally imposed contract terms that cut retiree health care, froze pensions, and increased health care costs.

Hundreds of FairPoint employees continue to picket 12 hours a day at dozens of sites across Maine, New Hampshire, and Vermont. They have been joined by supporters from other unions in the region and by elected leaders, including New Hampshire Governor Maggie Hassan.

With the arrival of the season’s first nor’easter this week, experienced technicians are expressing concern that FairPoint’s replacement workers will be unable to handle the challenges that come with high winds and heavy rain.

Steve Soule, a Manchester, New Hampshire, service technician who has been on the job for 17 years, explains, “Normally, with a storm like this, me and my fellow techs would be preparing generators and staging our materials to respond to weather-related outages. We would be preparing for possible flooding which can knock out systems that provide 911 and other essential communications. I’m concerned that FairPoint doesn’t have enough staff with the expertise to deal with a widespread service interruption.”

Soule went on to talk about the local knowledge that’s vital to keeping people connected and the public safe. “Because many of us have been working in these communities for decades, we know where the vulnerabilities are. We know where back-up batteries might be weak and where phone and DSL lines are most likely to go down,” said Soule. “Some inexperienced replacement worker from out-of-state couldn’t possibly anticipate those problems. I worry that if this storm is as bad as some of the nor’easters we’ve experienced in the recent past, our communities could see lengthy service interruptions made longer because of this replacement workforce. It’s not just about convenience, it’s about public safety.”

Workers on the picket lines stress that they are on the same side as their customers. They want Northern New England to have the best possible phone and Internet service. To provide 21st-century technology to businesses, schools, and families requires well-trained, experienced, local workers who know the system.

The International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) System Council T9 includes local unions in Maine, New Hampshire, and Vermont and represents nearly 1,700 employees at FairPoint Communications. The Communications Workers of America (CWA) Local 1400 represents nearly 300 FairPoint employees in the three states. For more information, visit www.fairnessatfairpoint.com.

FairPoint Workers in Maine, New Hampshire, and Vermont On Strike

FairPoint Communications

Fairness at Fairpoint Banner

Unions Say Company Refuses to Compromise
to Preserve Reliable Service and Good Jobs

Augusta, ME—At 12:01 a.m. on Friday, October 17th, nearly 2,000 employees of FairPoint Communications (FRP) in northern New England will go on strike.  Early Friday morning they will establish picket lines at hundreds of work sites across Maine, New Hampshire, and Vermont.

“The company’s actions have brought us to this place,” said Peter McLaughlin, Business Manager of IBEW Local 2327 in Maine. “We did not want to take this step. Our members want to work; they want to take care of their customers. However, our bargaining team worked as hard as we could to reach a fair agreement that would preserve good jobs and help the company prosper. We’ve offered significant concessions to this company that would save them hundreds of millions of dollars. But they absolutely refuse to compromise on any significant issue.”

Negotiations began on April 25th, when the company came to the table with proposals that would cost workers more than $700 million. The company sought to freeze pensions, raise health care costs, cut retiree health care, and institute a two-tier wage system that would pay new hires as little as minimum wage. In addition, the company sought to end job security and outsource union members’ work to out-of-state and foreign contractors.

After dozens of bargaining sessions during which the company rejected every significant union proposal, the company declared an impasse on August 27th and imposed the terms and conditions of their proposals on the workers. The unions have charged the company with violating federal labor law and are seeking injunctive relief from the National Labor Relations Board.

Employees say the North Carolina-based company, which emerged from bankruptcy in 2010, wants to slash labor costs in order to either sell the business or satisfy shareholders with dividends. “This company is largely owned by a small number of Wall Street hedge funds like Angelo, Gordon & Co.,” said Don Trementozzi, President of CWA Local 1400. “Their priority is to squeeze as much money as possible out of the workers who’ve kept this company going, not to provide the 21st-century telecommunications system that northern New Englanders need and deserve.”

Union leaders say the company hired a notorious “union avoidance” law firm, Seyfarth Shaw, to lead the negotiations with the goal of forcing draconian terms on the workers. “It is clear that this company never intended to reach a negotiated agreement with our members,” said Glenn Brackett, Business Manager of IBEW Local 2320 in New Hampshire. “They put their outrageous proposals on the table on April 25th and never budged. That is not good faith. That is not compromise and cooperation. It is disrespect, pure and simple. Our members refuse to work under these conditions any longer.”

Members of IBEW and CWA as well as supporters from other unions and community organizations will picket at work sites in order to bring public awareness to their situation and to deter replacement workers from crossing their picket lines. They will ask customers and service providers not to cross the lines to do business or make deliveries to FairPoint locations.

“This fight is about keeping good middle-class jobs in our region and making sure that customers get the service they deserve from well-trained, experienced workers, not low-wage temps from out-of-state or overseas,” said Mike Spillane, Business Manager of IBEW Local 2326 in Vermont. “Our members have been organizing and educating the public for well over a year. While they would much rather continue to work and take care of our customers, they are absolutely united and ready to strike for as long as it takes to win a fair agreement.”

The International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) System Council T9 includes local unions in Maine, New Hampshire, and Vermont and represents nearly 1,700 employees at FairPoint Communications. The Communications Workers of America (CWA) Local 1400 represents nearly 300 FairPoint employees in the three states. For more information, visit www.fairnessatfairpoint.com.

FairPoint Freezes Pensions of Nearly 2,000 Northern New England Employees

FairPoint Communications

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Union Members Call On Major Shareholder Angelo, Gordon to Intervene

Boston, MA—Today, FairPoint Communications froze the pensions of nearly 2,000 employees who build, maintain, and service vital telecommunications infrastructure throughout Maine, New Hampshire, and Vermont. The company has already stopped providing retiree health care and support for child and elder care. Workers say that this is all part of FairPoint’s plan to turn their good middle-class jobs into low-wage temporary jobs.

Unions representing the employees had been negotiating with the company since April to reach new collective bargaining agreements. Leaders of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) and the Communications Workers of America (CWA) say that FairPoint management abandoned the bargaining process on August 27th after refusing to compromise on any substantive issue since negotiations began.

Almost 50 percent of FairPoint’s stock is owned by just five hedge funds, including Angelo, Gordon & Co., FairPoint’s single largest shareholder with almost 20 percent of outstanding stock. FairPoint workers have called on Angelo, Gordon to urge company executives to resume bargaining with their unions and reach a fair agreement.

This morning, several FairPoint employees traveled to Boston to educate attendees of the 60th Annual Employee Benefits Conference about Angelo, Gordon’s role in freezing their pensions and ending retiree health care. Many conference attendees, including administrators of public pension funds and union Taft-Hartley plans, are potential clients of Angelo, Gordon because the firm manages billions of dollars in retirement investments of public sector workers and union members across the country.

FairPoint workers point out that Angelo, Gordon makes tens of millions in fees from public pension and union retirement plans, but has so far failed to stop FairPoint from freezing the retirement plans of its own employees.

According to Jenn Nappi, Assistant Business Manager of IBEW Local 2327 in Augusta, Maine, “Angelo, Gordon wants to have it both ways. It wants to continue to profit from managing the retirement investments of working people from all across the country, while it allows FairPoint, a company in which it controls one-fifth of all shares and has a designee on the board of directors, to freeze the pensions of 2,000 workers in northern New England.”

FairPoint workers and their allies say they refuse to remain silent while Angelo, Gordon games the system. “Today’s action will be one of many in the coming weeks to expose Angelo, Gordon and the other major owners of FairPoint. The firm can play a positive role and engage with FairPoint management in support of a fair agreement with their employees,” said Don Trementozzi, President of CWA Local 1400. “We hope they will reconsider their current position and make a difference for working families in northern New England.”

IBEW System Council T9 includes local unions in Maine, New Hampshire, and Vermont and represents nearly 1,700 employees at FairPoint Communications. CWA Local 1400 represents nearly 300 FairPoint employees in the three states.

The IBEW Is Helping To Clean Up The Environment Installing The Largest Rooftop Solar Array In USA

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Moving away from coal power is an instrumental part of cleaning up our environment, and the IBEW is doing their part.  The IBEW recently completed installation on the largest rooftop solar array in the country.  The new array will produce over 6.4 Megawatts of power.

The development of ways to harness the abundant power of the sun, and other renewable energy sources is not only good for the environment, it is good for our economy.

This job alone employed more than a 100 journeymen level workers and apprentices. Can you imagine the number of new jobs we could create if we started installing solar arrays like this throughout the country?

Investing in our future is just one way that we can put people back to work, and clean up our environment at the same time.

(Video can also be viewed on youtube here)

A Bargaining Update From WMUR Photogs (IBEW)

WMUR Photogs IBEW

WMUR Photogs IBEW

We just received an update from Dan Ryan, one of the WMUR Channel 9 Photogs (IBEW) who currently are in contract negotiations with Hearst Communications, WMUR’s parent company. So far Hearst Communications is refusing to offer the same retirement package that all of the other WMUR employees receive.

We met with the company today. The company continues to deny the 13 photographers equal and fair treatment as they refuse to allow these employees to enjoy the same benefit package as the rest of WMUR’s union and non-union  employees. The company’s small counter offer would leave these photographers far behind the rest of their co-workers whom they work side by side with everyday.

    The 13 Photographers have voted unanimously to give the bargaining committee permission to seek strike authorization. The IBEW 1228 Photographers at WMUR are shocked that the company is so intent on continuing to punish these 13 photographers  for bringing the union into the building,

    All four major Democratic candidates that will be participating in debates on WMUR have sent a joint letter to management asking them to consider our concerns. The Photographers do not want to disrupt the Political Debates on WMUR but feel this is our only way to get the corporation to negotiate fairly.

The NHLN will continue to stand behind our IBEW brothers and sisters at WMUR.  We hope that contract talks will continue, and a strike can be avoided. However, if the time comes, we will be there to stand the line with you!

Shea-Porter Statement on FairPoint Communications and Union Negotiations

FairPoint Communications

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Manchester, NH – Today, Congresswoman Carol Shea-Porter (NH-01) released the following statement regarding the ongoing contract dispute between FairPoint Communications and two unions representing its workers, the Communications Workers of America (CWA) and the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW).

“I am disappointed that talks have stalled between FairPoint Communications and the Communications Workers of America (CWA) and the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW), who represent the workers. There can be no resolution of differences if all parties are not at the table, hammering out an agreement. FairPoint and the union members who work at FairPoint are all important to our economy in New Hampshire and New England. For that reason, I believe it is essential that all parties return to the table and work together to reach a fair agreement.”

New York State Comptroller Intervenes In FairPoint Labor Dispute

FairPoint Communications

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Calls on Major Hedge Fund Owner and FairPoint Investor to Ensure Fair Treatment of Workers

Augusta, ME—On September 3rd, Thomas DiNapoli, Comptroller of the State of New York, wrote to John Angelo, CEO of Angelo, Gordon & Co.—owner of almost 20 percent of FairPoint stock—to express his concern about reports that FairPoint has violated federal law in bargaining with representatives of almost 2,000 members of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) and the Communications Workers of America (CWA) in northern New England.

  • DiNapoli is sole Trustee of the New York State Common Retirement Fund (CRF), the nation’s third largest public pension fund, which invests the assets of more than one million members, retirees, and beneficiaries of the retirement system in New York State.
  • The CRF is an investor in the AG Super Fund, a hedge fund managed by Angelo, Gordon & Co.
  • In addition to owning almost 20 percent of FairPoint stock, Angelo, Gordon & Co. has a designee on FairPoint’s Board of Directors.

According to Mr. DiNapoli’s letter, “In our experience as a long-term institutional investor, where a company has a constructive relationship with its workers and provides sustainable retirement benefits, the company becomes a stronger, more profitable, and more enduring enterprise.”

He went on to say that, “We are, therefore, concerned by publicly reported allegations that FairPoint has not acted in good faith and has violated federal law; specifically, assertions that FairPoint improperly declared an impasse in collective bargaining and unlawfully imposed” the terms of its final contract proposals.

Union leaders welcomed Mr. DiNapoli’s intervention. “Angelo, Gordon is the largest FairPoint stockholder and has tremendous influence over management’s decisions. We hope that Mr. Angelo takes seriously this intervention by Mr. DiNapoli, who represents one of the largest pension funds in the US,” said Peter McLaughlin, Business Manager of IBEW Local 2327 and chair of the unions’ bargaining committee.

The Chairman of FairPoint’s Board of Directors, Edward Horowitz, recently informed an advisor to union leaders that members of the Board have been briefed on the company’s bargaining position and that the Board fully endorses that position.

“It is disappointing to hear that members of FairPoint’s Board of Directors support the company’s attacks on working families across northern New England,” said Don Trementozzi, President of CWA Local 1400. “We believe that our members are the reason this company emerged from bankruptcy and has begun to recover after its truly ill-advised purchase of Verizon. We will continue to educate investors like the CRF about this company’s decision to put short-term profits above the long-term interests of its workers, customers, and their communities.”

View the letter here.

Labor Unions Representing Tens of Thousands of New Hampshire Workers Endorse Jeanne Shaheen

SenJeanneShaheen

Manchester — Just one day after Scott Brown declared he has no interest in promoting economic development here in our state, New Hampshire labor unions representing tens of thousands of Granite State workers including the NH AFL-CIO, SEIU, NEA, Teamsters, Iron Workers, Electrical Workers, Food and Commercial Workers, Postal Workers, and Laborers, endorsed New Hampshire Senator Jeanne Shaheen for reelection. In their endorsements, workers highlighted Shaheen’s commitment to creating good paying jobs and her record standing up for New Hampshire workers and their families. Meanwhile, Scott Brown has shown that he’s only looking out for one job, his own, after it was recently reported that he is collecting a hefty paycheck from a company that shipped jobs overseas. Yesterday, Brown declared he wasn’t going to work to create jobs in the Senate.

“I’m honored to have the support of so many New Hampshire workers and their families,” said Shaheen. “Every day in the U.S. Senate, my number one priority has always been to strengthen our economy and create good paying jobs here in New Hampshire so everyone who works hard can earn a decent living for their families. I’ll never stop fighting to increase the minimum wage, invest in our state’s roads and bridges, and close loopholes for companies that ship jobs overseas. These are commonsense solutions that will make a real difference for people throughout New Hampshire.”

Jeanne Shaheen has fought to strengthen the state’s economy and create good paying jobs for New Hampshire workers. She reached across party lines to secure new funding to widen I-93 and rebuild the Portsmouth Memorial Bridge, both of which created jobs for workers across the state. Shaheen stood up to members of her own party to protect thousands of jobs at the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard. She also voted to close tax breaks for companies that ship jobs overseas and is fighting to raise the minimum wage because it’s what’s right for New Hampshire families.

Scott Brown has opposed increasing the minimum wage and voted to support tax loopholes for companies that offshore American jobs. Recently, the Nashua Telegraph reported that Brown has made over a quarter million dollars as a board member of a company that touts outsourcing American jobs to China and Mexico as part of its business plan. Legal documents dated just two days before Brown entered the U.S. Senate race in New Hampshire bear his signature endorsing the company’s outsourcing strategy.

“This election, we’re going door to door because there’s a real contrast in this race between someone running for New Hampshire working families and someone who’s in this race to line his own pockets,” said Mark Mackenzie, President of the NH AFL-CIO. “While Jeanne Shaheen puts New Hampshire first, Scott Brown puts his bank account first, refusing to resign from the board of a company that offshored American jobs to increase its profits. We don’t stand for that here in New Hampshire.”

“As a former teacher herself, Jeanne Shaheen knows the importance of ensuring every child has access to an affordable, quality education,” said NH National Education Association President Scott McGilvray. “It’s an insult to working families that Scott Brown would sit on the Board of Directors of a company that sent American jobs to China and Mexico to increase its bottom line. What Scott Brown needs to understand is that the offshoring practices he endorsed don’t just hurt workers, they hurt communities and they hurt kids.”

“Senator Shaheen has shown time and time again she can reach across the aisle and get things done for the people of New Hampshire,” said Steven Burk, NH Business Agent and Political Liason for the Ironworkers. “She’s worked to create good paying jobs here in our state, including the rebuilding of the Portsmouth Memorial Bridge, which our workers were proud to be a part of. New Hampshire working people deserve a Senator who will stand up for them, fight to increase the minimum wage, and close loopholes for companies that ship jobs overseas–not one who supports special interests and lines his own pockets while claiming to represent us.”

“Jeanne Shaheen understands that investing in New Hampshire’s infrastructure not only creates good paying jobs, but also strengthens our economy in the long run,” said New Hampshire Teamsters Secretary-Treasurer David Laughton. “Scott Brown is still cashing in from his role on the board of a company that shipped American jobs overseas. While he profits, working people suffer. Here in New Hampshire, we’re not going to tolerate that kind of behavior.”

“The bottom line is Jeanne Shaheen understands that people in New Hampshire have bills to pay, kids to send to college, and food to put on the table–all while trying to save for retirement,” said Diana Lacey, SEIU 1984 President. “Scott Brown didn’t just vote for tax breaks for companies that offshore American jobs, he sits on the board of one of those companies himself.”

“Senator Shaheen supported every postal worker in New Hampshire when she personally urged members of the Appropriations Committee to protect the USPS service standards, helping to preserve a vital public service,” said Dana Coletti, New Hampshire President of the American Postal Workers Union. “Jeanne Shaheen looks out for the people of New Hampshire and has always put the families of this state first.”

“As Governor and Senator, Jeanne Shaheen’s worked to create good paying jobs by investing in infrastructure and education right here in New Hampshire,” said Joe Bonfiglio, President of the Massachusetts & Northern New England Laborers’ District Council. “Scott Brown on the other hand seems to care more about the economies of China and Mexico. He’s made a quarter million dollars on the board of a company that shipped jobs overseas to increase profits. We need a Senator who prioritizes working people here in New Hampshire, and that Senator is Jeanne Shaheen.”

We’re proud to endorse Jeanne Shaheen for reelection to the United States Senate,” said Jim Carvalho, United Food and Commercial Workers Local 1445 Political Director. “She has a long record of fighting to create good paying jobs and looking out for working families here in New Hampshire. As a Senator from Massachusetts, Scott Brown voted to protect tax breaks for Big Oil, Wall Street and companies that ship jobs overseas. Now, he’s collecting money sitting on the board of a company that touts relying on low cost manufacturing jobs in China and Mexico as a part of its business plan. That’s not the representation our state deserves to have in the Senate.”

“Jeanne Shaheen is a Senator New Hampshire working people can trust. Her top priority has always been to create new jobs and she’s delivered for New Hampshire time and time again,” said Joe Casey, President of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 490. “Scott Brown is in this race for nobody but Big Oil, Wall Street and himself. I can’t believe he’d vote for tax breaks for all these special interests but won’t support increasing the minimum wage so working people can support their families. Now he’s making money off of a company that shipped jobs overseas? We need to keep Jeanne Shaheen in the Senate.”

One WMUR Photographer Explains Why You Should Support Their Fight Against Heart Communications

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The WMUR Photographers are asking for our help and support as they go against Hearst Communications, the owners of WMUR.

Dan Ryan, one of the 13 photographers from WMUR explained the situation to the crowd at the NH AFL-CIO Labor Day Breakfast.

Please show your support, by sharing this post or video with your friends.  If you are on twitter, please tweet to @WMUR9 and include @WMURphotog9

Click here to tweet: I support the @WMURphotog9, who deserve the same benefits as everyone else @WMUR http://wp.me/p2yHP6-4jJ #Solidarity @IBEW  @NHlabor_News

From a previous NHLN post:

Informational Picket at the Republican Primary Debates

September 2nd through the 5th

At WMUR 100 South Commercial Street, Manchester, NH

SUPPORT  IBEW  PHOTOGRAPHERS IBEW Local 1228

Ibew logoSince 2005, the WMUR Photographers have been the only Employees in the Station without a pension plan. Despite the fact that they tried to bargain for it repeatedly, Hearst, the parent Company of WMUR has refused to grant it. In fact, another unit of Employees at the Station who are represented by Local 1228 have that pension. Why not these 13 workers?

On Wednesday August 20th IBEW Local 1228 sent notice to WMUR Station Manager Jeff Bartlett that they were terminating the Contract effective August 30. The move was made so that the Photographers can legally launch a public awareness campaign and to engage in concerted actions if needed.

All we are asking for is equal treatment for the Employees that capture and deliver the news, every day. But the Hearst Corporation’s attitude is “we have no appetite for it”. How ridiculous! These Employees risk their physical and mental health daily to report the news including politics, tragedies, heart wrenching events and stories of hope from all over New Hampshire. They work side by side with first responders, shoot the video and edit these stories to inform and educate the citizens of New Hampshire. They generate the revenue Hearst enjoys from this station and deserve equal treatment in retirement benefits.

These Republican primary debates are important to WMUR for continued political revenue and their community image.

We ask you to join us there from 5-7pm each evening and help us send a message to Hearst that corporate greed will not be tolerated in New Hampshire.

      

         follow us on twitter: @wmurphotog9

FairPoint Walks Away From Bargaining Process, Declares Impasse

Unions Accuse Company of Federal Labor Law Violations

Manchester, NH–Unions representing nearly 2,000 employees of FairPoint Communications in Maine, New Hampshire, and Vermont met with the company on August 27 in Nashua, NH. The unions made a comprehensive proposal despite the company’s rejection of several earlier proposals.

The company then waited several hours before notifying the unions by email that the parties are at impasse and that the company would impose its last contract proposals at 12:01 a.m. on August 28.

“We strongly disagree with the company. We have not reached impasse. The company should stay at the table and continue to work with us to reach an acceptable agreement,” said Peter McLaughlin, Business Manager of International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) Local 2327 in Augusta and chair of the unions’ bargaining committee.

The unions have filed charges with the National Labor Relations Board accusing the company of violating federal law by not bargaining in good faith.

“We are deeply disappointed that FairPoint has walked away from the bargaining process,” said Don Trementozzi, President of Communications Workers of America (CWA) Local 1400. “We have worked tirelessly for months to negotiate an agreement that is fair to our members, our customers, and the company. We believe the company never intended to reach an agreement with us, but has been pushing towards this outcome all along.”

According to union leaders, the company has rejected every significant proposal the union has put forward since bargaining began in April and has refused to offer any counter proposals since before the contract expired on August 2.

“The company has refused to bargain with us, and their negotiators have even attempted to intimidate and bully us throughout the process,” said Glenn Brackett, Business Manager of IBEW Local 2320 in Manchester, NH. “But our members will not be intimidated by this company. They are determined to stand up for good jobs and our customers.”

Union leaders say FairPoint management wants to outsource hundreds of good jobs in Northern New England to low wage, out-of-state contractors. The company’s proposals would be devastating for communities that depend on well-trained and experienced workers to build and maintain their landlines, cell towers, DSL, and even 911 systems.

“FairPoint’s employees are some of the best trained, most experienced telecommunications workers in this country,” said Mike Spillane, Business Manager of IBEW Local 2326 in Burlington, VT. “But FairPoint executives are determined to outsource their work to low road contractors no matter the impact on customers and our communities. We will continue to fight their attempts to outsource our future.”

The union bargaining team will meet with its attorneys and other key advisors on Thursday morning to assess the situation and decide on next steps. In the meantime, the union has notified all members to continue working until further notice.

IBEW System Council T9 represents nearly 1,700 FairPoint employees in Maine, New Hampshire, and Vermont. CWA Local 1400 represents nearly 300 employees in the three states.

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