Axe, brass knuckles lead to arrest after Winnipeg bus ride Friday night

Incident comes on heels of fatal stabbing that killed Winnipeg bus driver

The arrest of a Winnipeg Transit passenger in possession of an axe and brass knuckles on Friday night raises more concerns for bus drivers, says their union president.

The incident is the latest in a string of troubling events that have occurred recently on city buses, Amalgamated Transit Union president John Callahan said Saturday morning.

“I’m very concerned,” said Callahan. “There’s so many operators right now that are scared.”

​Police confirmed Saturday they arrested a 22-year-old male at Watt Street and Nairn Avenue just after 9:30 p.m. Friday night.

Officials said the suspect got on the bus near Regent Avenue and Bond Street shortly after 9 p.m.

Braedon Andrew was sitting in the back of the half-full bus and said the suspect started waving the axe around.

“[A] suspicious looking person was waving around the axe, not trying to like intimidate anyone really, but just really being awkward and holding it out,” he said.

A few passengers saw what was happening and were able to disarm the suspect, Andrew said. The passengers then led the suspect off the bus with the help of the driver.

“I definitely felt threatened because anyone wielding an axe on the bus is not a good sign,” Andrew said.

When police arrived the suspect was standing on the sidewalk.

He’s since been detained on two counts of possession of a weapon and two counts of failing to comply with conditions.

Troubling trend

The incident comes on the heels of a fatal stabbing that left Winnipeg Transit driver Irvine Jubal Fraser dead after his last stop of the night at the University of Manitoba on Feb. 14.

Callahan said drivers are becoming increasingly worried about their safety and one bus operator received a threat earlier in the week.

“Her husband, who’s also a driver, actually rode with her last night. So it’s fortunate that that incident didn’t happen on their bus, but there’s a lot of concern out there.”

Callahan said since Fraser’s death, there have been other troubling incidents on city buses.

‘People being totally outrageous’

He said that last weekend, a passenger threatened to stab a driver. And earlier on Friday, another passenger was caught with two steak knives in his pockets.

After last weekend’s incident, “the operator called into the control centre very upset,” Callahan said, adding some passengers are “pushing buttons” to make things worse.

“There was a passenger that was asked to scan their transfer by another bus operator and he said, ‘You know what, this is why you guys get killed.’

“Some people are being just totally outrageous in the comments that they’re making in light of such a serious issue.”

Courtesy of CBC News

ATU Canada asks Unifor locals to end Dias’s raid on 113

ATU Canada reached out to all of the locals of Unifor in a letter, asking the Canadian union’s members to encourage their president “to cease his interference,” into the affairs of Local 113-Toronto, ON, “so that we can all return our focus to the daily struggles facing Canadian workers.” ATU Canada explained to the union’s members that, “It is now crystal clear that President Dias is seeking to raid ATU Local 113, and has found a willing partner in a rogue ATU local president, Bob Kinnear.” And that, “Kinnear’s maneuvers were a direct violation of the ATU Constitution and General Laws, Local 113’s by-laws, as well as an egregious violation of all trade union norms of democracy and respect for the members’ rights.” Read more.

Help the family of our fallen Winnipeg Brother

This week was a very sad one for ATU with the murder of Winnipeg bus driver Irvine “Jubal” Fraser on the job. The Local 1505 member died after a passenger stabbed him, Tuesday morning, at 2 a.m., at the end of his run. The police caught and charged the assailant with second degree murder. ATU International President Larry Hanley called for action to address the growing problem of attacks on bus drivers. “ATU demands that transit agencies and government officials bring the same sense of regret that they will display in the public mourning of this tragic, unnecessary death of our brother to the ongoing discussion about preventing these attacks from occurring.” You can help brother Jubal Fraser’s family by contributing here.


Board overturns MARTA decision to outsource paratransit service

Concluding that MARTA’s chief aim in outsourcing paratransit service was saving money on employee salaries and benefits – in essence, avoiding its obligations under the labor contract, an arbitration board has overturned MARTA’s decision to outsource its paratransit service to MV Transportation. Local 732 called the decision “a victory for everybody that was affected by this outsourcing” pointing out customers also will benefit from having experienced, well-trained drivers. Read more.


ATU Iowa fighting to save collective bargaining

Remember when Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker took away collective bargaining rights for public employees in 2011? Well now Iowa state legislators are attempting to do the same. And like Wisconsin, ATU Iowa is on the frontlines to stop this attack on unions. Our members flooded the halls of the state capitol with thousands of public employees, union members and supporters to protest the Republican-backed bill that would severely restrict public-sector workers’ ability to negotiate contracts. See photos of rally.


Conservative MPs laugh at Amarjeet Sohi’s past as bus driver

Former Local 569-Edmonton, AB bus driver and current the minister of infrastructure and Liberal MP Amarjeet Sohi, was speaking in the House of Commons about his job as bus driver when he heard laughter from Conservative MPs. Sohi, who spoke at ATU’s recent Convention in Toronto last Fall, didn’t miss a beat. His Liberal colleagues could be seen shaking their heads in disbelief. Afterwards Sohi spoke about the incident saying, “I take pride in my background. I think it does demonstrate a streak of elitist attitude in the Conservative Party, where maybe they don’t appreciate we have working-class people in Parliament in the Liberal government who are making a difference in the lives of Canadians.” Read more.


Local 689 voices concern on possible Metro safety commission

Local 689-Washington, DC has serious concerns about the authority a proposed safety commission would have regarding firing employees. A provision in the bill provides the commission alone sweeping power to recommend suspensions and disqualify an employee that it deems unfit, a Local representative told the Maryland House Environment and Transportation Committee at a public hearing. The three jurisdictions, Maryland, Virginia, and the District of Columbia must act in concert to pass the measure to create the Metrorail Safety Commission. Read more.


Kelowna bus driver ‘cold-cocked’ on highway

The hits keep coming – literally. This time the attack on a bus driver happen in Kelowna, MB where a disturbed young man punched a female bus driver in the head while she was driving. The driver managed to pull the bus over safely and then the passenger reached across her, stepped on her and crawled out her window. With the recent tragic murder of a Winnipeg bus driver, Local 1722 President Scott Lovell is particularly concerned. “These assaults are not stopping. How many bus drivers need to be killed before you change things for drivers?” Lovell believes the way to make buses safer is the installation of bus driver shields. Read more.


New officers learning the ropes at Tommy Douglas Conference Center

The ATU Tommy Douglas Center was very busy this week. Recently-elected local officers have been taking part in innovative trainings to learn new strategies to make their Locals stronger, and to empower members to get involved and prepare for the battles ahead. The participants are hearing from experts on a wide variety of topics to learn new skills to effectively run their Locals and serve their members. They also get the unique opportunity to exchange ideas and experiences with their fellow local officers. Photo gallery.

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Kelowna transit workers reach tentative agreement, end strike

There’s good news from Kelowna, BC, as Local 1722has reached a tentative contract agreement with First Canada ending a 13-day strike. The workers had been without a contract since April 1. The details of the agreement have not been made public as the Local is expected review the terms of the contract with its membership in the next day. Read more.


“Thank a CTA Driver” campaign

In an effort to organize members and build public support for transit in Chicago, Locals 241 and 308teamed with clergy and politicians to launch a “Thank a CTA Driver” campaign in the week leading up to Thanksgiving Day. The Locals produced a video about the campaign and are also passing out buttons with the message “Thank a CTA Driver” to the public at transit stops across the city. Watch video.


Workers don’t need Trump to give them a voice, they need unions

As this U.S. election made clear, a lot of Americans are angry. They feel left behind by the economy with income inequality at near record levels and have no voice in democracy as money dominates our political system. And President-elect Donald Trump seized on it to get elected. But truth be told a Trump Administration isn’t going to protect Americans’ basic rights and his policy recommendations “to rebuild the working class” will prove hollow. The real long-term solution to current political and economic dissatisfaction is to give workers a productive way to advocate for themselves. And the best way to do that is to rebuild unions. Read more.


The perils of privatization: Nassau County cuts more bus service

This is an all too familiar story, a private company wins a contract to manage a transit system with lofty promises of cutting costs and improving service, but ends up costing more, leading to fare increases, service cuts, and safety and maintenance shortcuts. That’s exactly what is happening in Nassau County with Transdev for the second time. The Nassau Inter-County Express (NICE) bus system run by Transdev is moving ahead with plans to ax 11 bus routes and cut service on two others blaming a funding crisis . The perils of privatization. Read more.

Emergency Union meeting in YWG

Dear Readers Bros and Sis:
I was attending today’s emergency meeting at the Union Office, I have to tell you I was overwhelmed by the participation, the whole meeting was mainly based in one topic, (if the upcoming election should be or not cancelled/postponed) and to be honest I don’t see that kind of participation on a regular basis, and let me tell you that they were a lot of discussions, screams and even lack of respect for the members of the executive and even participants, my point is you are upset because things are not running your way, that’s bad specially if you DON’T PARTICIPATE ON REGULAR MEETINGS, don’t come to the Union office once a year and expect results right away, it doesn’t work that way, this issue was brought by one of the brothers who started pulling signatures to stop this event, no problem, you have a valid point, but if they don’t let you run is not because they don’t like you, it’s simple because you DON’T HAVE ENOUGH CREDITS, to participate is simple as that (it’s a 100% legal) the results are clear the election will run as planned. For the record is my duty to inform you that our President John Callahan made a public apology for not posting the nominations in the proper time, the rest was done by the book 16 members out of the 1500 plus (what a shame) are qualified to run only 14 were nominated the other 2 declined to participate.
At the end I got upset because there were serious words coming from the members, words like corrupts, non sense meetings among other things.
AGAIN, BE UNION PARTICIPATE AND THEN WE LISTEN.
Your brother.
canada

ATU 1505 IS HAVING AN ELLECTION COMING UP

Amalgamated Transit Union 1505, here in Winnipeg will have its election to be held on:

November 28-Dec 3, 2016

November 28, 2016 Union Office 0800-1600

November 29, 2016 Downtown Lounge 0800-1600

November 30, 2016 Brandon Garage 0430-1530

November 30,  2016 Fort Rouge Garage  0800-1600 and December 1, 2016 till 1530

December 1, 2016 North Garage 1600 and December the 2nd 1530.

Ballot counting at ATU Union Office December the 2nd 2016, 1600

The following positions were filled by Acclamation: Executive board # operating Derek Hanley,

Executive board Maintenance #1 Ron Nelson,

Auditor#1 Operating Lloyd Greenway

Every bro and sis are invited to participate and cast your vote, very important, and remember you are part of it and ONLY YOU CAN MAKE A DIFFERENCE.

election-bios

ATU OUT IN FORCE

“When we the people are united we win. The times ahead will be the roughest we have seen in our lifetimes but we must double our efforts to educate and organize,” ATU International Secretary-Treasurer Oscar Owens told a raucous crowd of progressive and union activists at a Social Justice/Anti-TPP rally outside the Capitol in Washington, DC. More than 90 ATU members attended the rally to hear from Senator Bernie Sanders, I-VT, Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, D-HI, former CWA President Larry Cohen, former Ohio Democratic State Senator Nina Turner and others. Read more.


Riders stand along Kelowna transit workers as strike enters second week

Striking Local 1722-Kelowna, BC members got a boost as riders joined the workers on the picket lines to show their support. As the strike enters its second week the rider activists held a protest outside City Hall over the city’s failure to avoid job action by transit workers. The protestors say seniors, students and those with disabilities have been hit hardest by the strike and say it’s been difficult to join the workers on the picket lines because most transit users are stuck at home with no way to get anywhere. The workers have been without a contract since April 1. The ATU International stands in solidarity with our Kelowna brothers and sisters. Read more.


GEB and Locals gear up for 2017 at trainings

It’s been a very busy week at the Tommy Douglas Conference Center as the General Executive Board and Locals are taking part in a Joint Industry Council Training on contract negotiations and bargaining strategies. The GEB and the more than 60 local leaders are gearing up for a busy year as more than 60 local contracts are expiring. A team of experts are teaching participants innovative strategies and techniques to secure strong contracts and mobilize members to get involved.


Saskatoon transit workers “work to rule” as contract talks stall

In response to a series of unsuccessful negotiation sessions with the City of Saskatoon, Local 615members are refusing to work overtime and working “to the rule” in protest. One of the main sticking points is proposed changes to the pension plan that the city wants to impose without the Local’s consent. Both sides are waiting for an arbitration ruling on the issue. The Local’s members have been working without a contract for almost four years. Read more.


Local 1596 member & daughter elected to FL state house

“Like father, like daughter” has been taken to a new level for Local 1596-Orlando, FL member Victor Torres and his daughter Amy Mercado. They were both elected to the Florida state house and are the first father and daughter to serve in the Florida state legislature. The two are trying to set an example for the next generation. Younger family members have been campaigning with them and going door-to-door. ”The more they see that we’re engaged, the more they will be engaged,” Mercado said. And they’re already looking to their next generation to follow in their footsteps. “One of them is a political science major – so we’ll see,” Mercado continued. Read more.


Elected officials join Local 1300’s call for changes to Baltimore bus plan

Local 1300-Baltimore, MD, has been engaged in a comprehensive campaign to expose the problems of Charm City’s transit system and calling on the state to rethink its overhaul of the bus system. The Local has gained the support of key elected officials for their “People’s Plan for Baltimore” to repair the system. “The state has the responsibility that every citizen in the state of Maryland and the Baltimore region has safe access to fresh food, hospitals, education and jobs,” said Delegate Cory McCray. “And we know it’s the state’s responsibility to provide transportation to get to those places.” The workers are hitting bus stations across the city, knocking on doors and attending community meetings to get citizens to sign a petition calling on the MTA and Governor Hogan, R, to fix the bus system. Read more.


Dayton transit workers authorize strike

Kelowna, BC, and Saskatoon, SK, are not the only cities facing a possible transit worker strike as Local 1385-Dayton, OH, members voted to authorize a strike after rejecting their third contract proposal. It’s been decades since the Local has been on strike and state law requires 10 days’ notice of any job action. The major issues in the contract dispute are back pay, working conditions and proposed changes to health care plans. Be sure to check the ATU website for the latest developments on this story. Read more.

Please Stop Attacks on Transit Workers

With high temperatures and brutal humidity over the past few weeks transit workers are facing dangerous conditions on the job. In order to ensure your safety and health during these summer months we have developed an ATU Bulletin on “Heat Stress Safety”. This Bulletin can be downloaded here in English, Spanish, and French and easily printed by most computers. We encourage you to share these tips with your fellow brothers and sisters. We hope you find this information helpful this extremely hot and humid summer continues. Read more.


Help stop attacks on transit workers

From Winnipeg, MB, to Washington, DC to Kelowna, BC, to San Francisco, CA assaults on ATU members and all transit workers have become an epidemic. Not a week goes by that we don’t hear stories about bus operators and other transit workers being punched, stabbed, yelled at, spit on, shot at, and worse. ATU is calling on transit agencies, law enforcement, and elected officials to better protect all transit workers and riders. That is why it is important that you tell your stories of senseless attacks on bus operators and voice your opinion on the best ways to address this problem. We want to hear your ideas about how to prevent attacks on transit workers. We have created new online surveys for every ATU member to fill out. Here are links for the US members survey, Canadian members survey, and school bus workers survey. Fill out the survey today.


A “thank you” to transit drivers goes a long way

On a recent visit to Vancouver, Winnipeg Free Presscolumnist John Longhurst was riding a bus and was struck at how often riders said “thank you” to their drivers. A friend told him he experienced the same thing. Then in the wake of a recent incident of a Winnipeg bus passenger spitting in the face of a bus driver, Longhurst decided to pursue a story. While researching his column, Longhurst came across a comment about expressing gratitude on a website devoted to Vancouver buses: “I just think it makes their day a bit better and less stressful. It’s always nice to have someone be appreciative of what you do not because it is your job or part of your job duties.” In his column he wrote “saying thanks won’t stop the abuse (of bus drivers). But it might be a way to make their days a little less stressful and anxious, not to mention injecting a little humanity into what is an otherwise impersonal and rote encounter.” We couldn’t agree more. Read column.


Detroit Local, allies rally to fight RTA’s ‘transit racism”

The Regional Transit Authority (RTA) of Southeast Michigan is discriminating against minority and low-income Detroit bus riders by shifting federal funds away from Detroit to the surrounding suburban system said Local 26 and allies at a packed rally. Since 2013, about $8 million per year has been moved to the Suburban Mobility Authority for Regional Transportation (SMART) while many Detroit riders wait an hour for a bus where ridership is three times higher than in the suburbs. ATU is calling on officials to fix Detroit transit first and then address the issue of regionalizing the bus system. Watch story.


Why give to ATU COPE?

It’s clear that the 2016 U.S. election is the most important election in history for ATU members and working families in the U.S. How can you help to elect pro-labor and pro-transit candidates to office? Give to ATU-COPE. Watch this video about why ATU-COPE is critical and how you can win by contributing to it. ATU has extended the ATU-COPE month promotion it held in June through to Election Day in November. This means everyone who contributes to ATU-COPE between now and November 8, will receive an ATU pin and those who give at least $100 annually will receive a special ATU-COPE t-shirt. ATU-COPE helps your Local win as well.Watch the video to find out more.


Memphis Local, transit allies join to stop bus cuts

The negative impact of bus service cuts on the people who depend on public transit was exposed by ATU Local 713, the Memphis Bus Riders Union (MBRU), and riders at a packed public town hall meeting. “Instead of catching one bus to get from point A to point B, riders must catch two to three buses,” said one attendee. “With upcoming proposals to cut even more bus service, riders may have to use three to four buses.” The Local and MBRU have already won increased funding for buses which resulted in a $7.5 million increase to MATA’s budget this fiscal year and these allies will continue to fight any proposed cuts. Read more.


Hamilton Local produces nonviolent crisis intervention video

In response to the continuing problem of assaults against transit operators, Local 107-Hamilton, ON produced a video demonstrating nonviolent strategies drivers can use to protect themselves and defuse crisis situations. The video breaks down dangerous situations into three stages: pre-crisis, crisis, and post-crisis – with an emphasis on trying to avoid a crisis, and moving to the post-crisis stage as quickly as possible. The video points out the importance of always wearing a seatbelt, explaining that rather than hindering drivers from defending themselves, seatbelts help to prevent drivers from being dragged out of their seats, and serve to restrain a driver tempted to get out of their seat from leaving the bus. Watch video.

TransLink uses ‘defusers’ to help bus drivers cope with tragic accidents, assaults

It could be an assault, a serious traffic accident, or even a suicide on a transit bus, but when his phone rings, Dave McKay knows there’s a bus driver out there in need of help.

McKay is a front-line member of Coast Mountain Bus Co.’s “defuser” team — an army of about three dozen transit employees trained to help bus drivers cope in traumatic situations. At a moment’s notice, he could be called to help a bus driver involved in a fatal accident or who has been spat at or assaulted by a passenger.

“It’s kind of like emotional first aid,” said McKay, a former bus driver who manages the “defuser” team. “It helps them to recover faster and better.”

The volunteer program, started in 1992, is similar to the critical stress management used by police and firefighters, but tailored to bus drivers. The program is open to TransLink employees who must go through a rigorous screening to ensure they have traits such as strength, empathy and good listening skills to make them effective defusers.

Nathan Woods, president of the union that represents bus drivers, said the idea is to counsel bus drivers to help “take the stress away.” There are 23 members on the team now, while another eight are undergoing the four-day training. When a bus driver is in need, a call goes out to all the volunteers.

“Anyone can be used for any event,” Woods said, noting defusers are needed more than a couple times a week. “If you feel you’re not safe to drive anywhere, you can call a defuser.”

McKay, a former volunteer firefighter who became a defuser 15 years ago, has been woken countless times in the middle of the night, and once had to cut short a 10-kilometre run after a bus driver hit a cyclist. Sometimes, the call is extremely unsettling: in one case, he arrived at a fatal crash to find the traumatized driver standing over the body. In another, he dealt with a driver pummelled repeatedly by a passenger as he drove a crowded bus.

“The passenger was upset at the previous bus driver because he had been passed up or missed,” McKay said. “When this bus driver pulled up, the person walked through the front door and attacked him while the bus was moving. It was quite a big fracas.”

The driver was almost unconscious when he crashed into the curb. While passengers restrained his assailant, a transit supervisor was called to assess the situation and alerted McKay who raced to get there before the shock wore off. ” (The drivers) could be physically shaking or incoherent,” he said. “They’re at the point of being physically unable to function. The last thing we want them to do is drive a bus.”

It took McKay close to an hour to calm the driver down, using a structured process that allows the driver to explain what happened, react and then deal with it. But sometimes, the trauma is so bad that the driver needs more psychological help.

Drivers also don’t have to accept the help of a defuser. In 2014, 104 bus drivers used a defuser, while 214 rejected the offer. Last year, 97 accepted the help, while 225 declined it.

As a bus driver in the mid-1990s, McKay drove over a person who jumped in front of his bus at Hastings and Jackson St.

“He fell down and I drove over him. His legs were flailing,” he said. “I didn’t kill him, but I thought I had. It was just unimaginable.”

McKay didn’t use a defuser, but said his experience has helped him to aid others. Many defusershave backgrounds as former cops, firefighters or mental health workers, he said, and depending on what they see, some will stay on the job for more than 10 years.

“You need to be a person who is confident and has the strength to deal with people who are not in a good place,” he said.

The job has its consequences, however. Defusers are required to get counselling after every 10 incidents, but usually turn to each other.

“Generally, we take care of ourselves,” McKay said. “You help to defuse the defuser. If you don’t do that, that’s when we lose people.”

McKay said there are times when he doesn’t feel like taking a call, but he would never pass up a driver in need. He cites the case where the driver was found standing over the body.

The driver refused a defuser, but agreed to talk with McKay, thinking it was just a chat. Now whenever he sees him, McKay said, the driver thanks him for his help.

“Obviously, it had a profound effect on him,” he said. “There is some personal satisfaction in doing that. It’s people helping people, but they go that extra mile to put themselves out there for it.”

Courtesy of Vancouver Sun

Watch the video

Transit union leaders renew push for tough penalties for bus driver assaults

articles_bus_stopOTTAWA — Transit union leaders from across Canada are again pushing the federal government to stiffen penalties for people convicted of assaulting bus drivers.

Thirty-one regional representatives from the Canadian Council of the Amalgamated Transit Union were to lobby politicians in Ottawa on Tuesday to resurrect a failed private member’s bill that would require judges to consider assaults on on-duty operators as an aggravating factor to be applied during sentencing.

Getting the proposed amendment to the Criminal Code back on the agenda is the priority for the director of the ATU’s Canadian Council, Mike Mahar, who took over the position in January. After meeting with about a dozen MPs in the past six weeks, he said Monday there is early support from some members of the Conservative majority government.

“It’s the biggest issue for us right now and has been for quite some time,” Mahar said. “We’re definitely seeing an increase in the severity of the assaults.”

He cited several specific attacks, including one in April on a Montreal transit driver who was severely beaten by three young men and hospitalized. Thanks to a surveillance video and tips from the public, three men have been arrested.

In Ottawa, police reported an assault in March in which a passenger sucker-punched an OC Transpo driver who reportedly questioned him about an expired transfer. Statistics from OC Transpo show 51 operators were assaulted in 2012. Fifty of those were Level 1 assaults with no or minor injuries. One report was a Level 2, a classification for those who suffer injuries. In 2011, three of 52 assaults were Level 2.

“These (assaults) happen daily (across Canada), and they’re only getting worse,” Mahar said.

Numbers collected by the Canadian Urban Transit Association and released by ATU this week shows 2,061 bus drivers from across the country reported being assaulted in 2011. The majority of those assaults included incidents in which people spit on the driver, which do not garner the public’s attention like the more vicious assaults.

A breakdown of CUTA data shows 47 per cent of the assaults did not cause bodily harm; six per cent of the attacks were with a weapon or causing bodily harm. Fewer than one per cent fell into the category of aggravated assault.

Mahar and his fellow union leaders were to spend Tuesday meeting with MPs, trying to find the support they need to resurrect the proposed bill that was introduced by Conservative MP Brent Rathgeber in 2011. The catalyst for that move was the well-documented assault on Edmonton transit driver Tom Bregg, who was beaten into a coma by a passenger in 2009.

The bill died when the last election was called and now the union leaders want to recapture the attention of their politicians. For Mahar, assaults on drivers will also continue to make bus driving an unattractive occupation.

“It’s going to be critical for the industry. As public transportation is growing, growing and growing in Canada, it becomes a staffing issue, it becomes a retention issue,” he said. If a bus driver is assaulted, “If they don’t come back, you’ve lost that experience and expertise. Then the general talk of the industry becomes, Do you want to get into that career?”

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