Nunavik teacher decries travel bonus offered to non-local staff

“Years of experiencing a system that is set up to discriminate [against] local hires is exhausting”

A new bonus offered to some Nunavik teaching staff has raised concerns about discrimination and inequity between local and non-local staff at Kativik Ilisarniliriniq. (File photo)

By Sarah Rogers

Nunavik’s school board is offering some of its teaching staff a cash incentive to stay in the region over the winter holiday break, but some say the bonus discriminates against local and Inuit employees.

Kativik Ilisarniliriniq offers three paid annual trips south to its non-local staff, typically teachers who are hired from the south. Most of those teachers opt to return home to visit family during the winter holidays.

With the threat of COVID-19 and the need for travellers to quarantine for 14 days, KI has offered an incentive for staff to stay in the region over the holidays.

Non-local teachers say that, last week, they were offered a base amount of $2,900 to stay in Nunavik over that period, roughly the cost of air travel to and from the region.

Locally hired teachers and support staff—many of them Inuit—were offered $500 a week as compensation.

Mary Joanne Kauki, a veteran Inuktitut teacher at Jaanimmarik school in Kuujjuaq, posted a public letter on Nov. 13 criticizing the school board for creating an inequitable workplace.

“Many of my colleagues, local and non-local, really were frustrated with this decision,” Kauki told Nunatsiaq News.

“The southern teachers and staff are given a choice if they want to go south for Christmas and follow the protocol of a two-week self-isolation once they return in the new year, but those who wish to stay and the locals that do not really have a choice will have to begin work on schedule.”

Non-local staff who decide to travel over the holidays are even offered $100 a day by KI to leave their pets behind with a pet sitter.

KI’s schools in Nunavik are currently scheduled to close for winter holidays between Dec. 20 and Jan. 3.

Kauki said the holiday bonus is only the most recent example of inequity between local Inuit staff and their out-of-region co-workers, who already receive housing and a food cargo allowance when they move to Nunavik to work for KI.

Kauki said that’s created a two-tiered system in Nunavik.

The letter Kauki made public last week has been shared widely on social media and prompted a petition in support of equity for school staff in Nunavik.

“I want to make it clear that my sharing was in no way to devalue my colleagues who come from the south. I value them just as much as I value Inuit staff,” she said. “But years of experiencing a system that is set up to discriminate [against] local hires is exhausting.”

KI declined to speak to Nunatsiaq News, instead issuing a Nov. 17 statement in which the school board confirmed it approved those incentives on Nov. 9, with the goal of protecting Nunavik communities from the risk of spreading COVID-19 infection.

But KI also acknowledged that the incentives create disparities in the working conditions of its employees.

“These disparities are rooted in collective agreements that do not represent the interests of unionized Nunavimmiut and polarize our workforce along ethnic lines,” KI said.

“The uproar Kativik Ilisarniliriniq is now facing from employees who are not entitled to outing and housing benefits under their collective agreement very clearly illustrates the urgent need to change a system that blatantly discriminates against unionized Nunavimmiut,” the board said.

“We urge the Quebec government to hear us out, and support Kativik Ilisarniliriniq in addressing these issues at their core….”

The school board said it is working to address those gaps through current contract negotiations with its teaching and support staff, as well as through a case filed before the Superior Court of Quebec, in which KI seeks the right to negotiate working conditions directly with its employees.

In the meantime, the Council of Commissioners, which is KI’s board of directors, approved on Nov. 16 the payment of a taxable COVID-19 wellness lump sum to employees who are not entitled to outing benefits under their collective agreements, but KI did not say if the amount is now on par with employees who are entitled to outings.

The Association of Employees of Northern Quebec—the union that represents teachers and support staff at KI—said staff members, both local and non-local, have approached the union with concerns about the school board’s latest offer.

“The local staff are really mad, because feel like they’re worth less than their co-workers,” said AENQ President Larry Imbeault.

The union will meet with some of its Nunavik members this week to discuss the issue.

More broadly, Imbeault said the union has been trying to close the regional disparities gap between local and non-local hires for several years.

Imbeault said the union is currently negotiating a new contract for those employees since the most recent one expired this past March.

In past negotiations, Imbeault said the AENQ has tried, unsuccessfully, to secure housing as a provision for non-local KI staff.

Now, as part of these most recent negotiations, the union has dropped its demand for housing for local staff and is instead asking for rent subsidies for those employees.

The AENQ is also asking KI for a paid travel period for non-local staff and to have a food cargo allowance paid out to all KI staff.

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(46) Comments:

  1. Posted by Union? on

    How has the union allowed their membership to be treated so differently?

    I understand the recruitment tools but these benefits should be the same for all members.

  2. Posted by hunter3 on

    It’s called a retention package. It’s standard practice across the entire northern region in Canada to offer retention packages to attract and keep qualified hires from the South. It recognizes that these hires are moving away from their families and it supports maintaining a connection with their families. You might have an argument for local hires also receiving the food/cargo allowance, but that’s about it.

    • Posted by Southern Ex-husband on

      Actually, you’ve just created an argument for aspiring Inuk teachers to move south and apply from there, so they can receive the same benefits.

      It’s ridiculous when Inuit have to leave home in order to receive equality at home, if they get hired. What a mess!

      And when I was married to an Inuk and working for KI, I was a “local hire”, and didn’t get any travel benefits, even though most of my family and friends were almost 2000 km away.

      • Posted by Starved on

        The system is designed to create a little heaven for white teachers from the south.
        There is no reason why NTEP graduates are paid peanuts compared to graduates from down south. No wonder you still have a hard time to fill positions; the locals are made to feel inferior in their own home- pathetic!
        When a local teacher gets a job with that paltry salary, they’ve hardly left with anything after paying the rediculous rents housing charges. NTEP graduates are worse off financially compared to those that just walk into the school as supply teachers. The union itself is only ther to serve the white people- I was shocked when they announced they had created a position for Inuit staff- like duh??
        Inuit should be front and centre in the teacher union but it has been turned into an east coast golf club with regular travel to workshops and all. From rigged elections to facilitating and catering their friends interests, that union should just be closed!
        Make NTEP graduates part of the system , make them feel welcome, listen to their concerns, treat them like the role models that they are; soon enough you will not need to hire from another province. While you are at it, check how many NTEP graduates have quit teaching and joined other departments.

    • Posted by True story bro on

      There are many schools in Nunavik who struggle to fill teaching and other roles in the school from Special Ed techs to janitors… I’m glad KI is now publicly making more of a stand to say they want to move for ward on getting better benefits for locally hired people.

      I’d love to see at the very least a housing benefit, like an amount to help offset the cost of housing rent, etc. For locally hired teachers. It would also be nice to see some sort of travel benefit, like how K.R.G. has done for a while. Don’t know how they can pay for it but their doing it. Maybe we needed to have Nunavik regional government early so all those benefits could be the same for all the organizations

  3. Posted by Sure… on

    “as well as through a case filed before the Superior Court of Quebec, in which KI seeks the right to negotiate working conditions directly with its employees.”
    .
    I am sure that KI is going to court to go around the union’s back to address inequalities in working conditions out of the goodness of their hearts. They’re definitely motivated by the best interests of their workers… it’s not like KI has proven itself to be a fan of fraudulent and sly dealings when they lied to their students about their high school diplomas for almost a decade or anything…
    .
    I’d watch out for what will come of this case, it doesn’t sound like it will help workers to have individual negotiations rather than collective ones. It would likely only make things more unequal than anything else

  4. Posted by Discrimination VS. discrimination on

    Your employer knows you are not going south and so they pay you the minimum they can. Your counterparts from the south are treated different (small ‘d’ discrimination) because your employer has determined it must provide incentives for fill positions. This is no different than banks handing out bonuses to new customers and not old one. This is not capital ‘d’ discrimination just because you are local or Indigenous, it is the ancient principle of supply and demand. Your employer would love it if you had local hires, as then the bonuses would stop. But not enough people want to a) get educated or b) move to remote areas.

    • Posted by Inuk from Nunavik on

      They also should have incentive for Inuit teachers if they want to retain them they are just as important than the southern teachers.

      • Posted by Nope on

        There is no evidence they are having a hard time retaining local hires, so there is no need for incentives to retain them.

    • Posted by ethics on

      Supply and demand? If there is a smaller demand for local/Inuit hires, then more efforts need to be done to retain and attack. The priority is not to have Southern hires. The priority is to have local, Inuit teachers. This system does not make it desirable for local Inuit to become teachers, which is the main priority. This is completely wrong and should be filed with the Quebec Human Rights Commission.

  5. Posted by Nunavimmiu on

    Close the Public Schools in Nunavik. If we want our kids to be educated, do it at home, get Internet connection and Teach our kids on Line. They know how to use the Computer/Ipad/Ipod. Etc…

    • Posted by KUUJJUAQ on

      Half , if not more of the population of nunavik is on social assitance , most of them can t afford the tools , let alone the internet

  6. Posted by Move away from home, on

    When I moved away from home, I said bye momma, bye father. That was many years ago. No one offered me money to keep in touch with mommy, father or friends and relatives. Nope, that why it’s was called moving, and finding your place in the world. That is one big aspect of why we don’t have good solid, stay long teachers in Nunavik, they are encouraged to return home or be paid too much to stay. If KI cut out that playing with people , teachers in that way, like offer them all that incentive, cripples the desire to become permanent and really make a difference. I say to anyone who wants to work and be in Nunavik, be here, not there. KI, get people who are with us, not transient and expensive.

  7. Posted by All for one , none for all on

    The southerners living in Nunavik, are not in Nunavik with their heart and best abilities if they are continuing to returning every few moons to their southern nest. If they really want to make a difference , they should leave that southern nest and stay in Nunavik. This transient free for returning and coming and going is not serving Nunavik well. Nunavik would be better off going with all local teachers, even if they are not trained, I mean whats great about our students anyway, considering the present situation of success, surely if we went all local, we do just as good. Tell me some great success stories due to these coming and going nest returners.

      • Posted by Faithful of it on

        Faith in oneself sometimes angers those unfaithful in all. But faith in the teachers coming and going on the tab of our deficit is not something I have that’s worth while. It’s time to have faith in our local talent and abilities. Get rid of what we don’t need from south.

      • Posted by Money faith on

        Our southern teachers can at least have faith in the money they are getting above their local teaching peers. But that is a fake faith that will get only animosity and resentment on the day’s end. The time has gone to believe in and implement equality.

    • Posted by BLABLABLABLA on

      It is actually a great idea!!!! Get all non local professional out of Nunavik and will see the outcome of it in 5 years from now !!!!
      I’ve been working in Nunavik for 15 years. I have heard this comment since my first day in the North. 15 years later, I still haven’t met an Inuk doctor, an Inuk social worker, an Inuk nurse practitioner, an Inuk physiotherapist, a specialized Inuk educator, an Inuk laboratory technician …. good luck

      • Posted by Graduate student on

        15 years in the north….
        You haven’t seen those yet because of your teaching skills. Or even the KI itself doesn’t give not much school work to their students to earn more credits. They say get graduated, the door will open to many opportunities in life. Not all graduates want’s to work in those positions.

      • Posted by Minnie on

        Just look up the post secondary graduates each year
        there are many Inuit with specialized field, Degrees and doctorates if you weren’t stuck up in your little bubble during your 15 years in the North you would know so many talented Inuit who have succeeded from Nunavik!

    • Posted by Teacher on

      Just because someone maintains connections in the summer or Christmas with their southern family or hometown doesn’t mean they aren’t committed and passionate northern community members. When someone is hired from the south, at some point they won’t have a choice but to return south unless they are lucky enough to meet a local person who they become partners with and make a family. Not everyone is that lucky, so even if we work our entire career in Nunavik, we will be homeless when we retire. That’s one reason maintaining a close relationship with family and a southern home is kinda important.

  8. Posted by Not just teachers on

    It’s not just teachers. I had a doctor awhile ago, suddenly gone , no notice , nothing , just gone, no one knows when he’ll return if ever. That the kind of thing we face in Nunavik, we have no consistency to services. New and green. The only service I get is when I go south for medical. Nunavik could cut out a large percentage of these professionals and still do very well, maybe even better then is now. I think it’s time to reshuffle, reorganize the people furniture and have a nice yard sale , getting rid of the expenses we don’t need to use , to have less, not more. Need a good watch dog group , clean up crew, directing traffic to the airports with one way fares paid.

  9. Posted by KI Teacher on

    The article is missing some parts of the issue. First, 2900$ is for Kuujjuaq but it goes above 4000$ for a teacher in Salluit, and then each dependent also get an amount. So it can up to 10000$ for a couple with two kids.

    The incentive for the locals that was voted on the 16 is not to stay in the community for Christmas, its to recognize the engagement of local teachers who are going back to work beginning of January while colleagues who travelled south will be in quarantine.

    As a local teacher, I wasn’t against my southerners colleagues and the benefits they have. We need them and yes, we need to attract them. But we need Inuit teachers as much, we need to value them as much. Without them, inuktitut and culturally adapted instructions would be gone. We have been working since august, some of us have family down south we haven’t seen them since march and yet, we have to work in the same environment, with the same limitations.

    This system is unfair for so many years and the incentive offered to southern teachers reopened the wound wide. Even more unfair, the first proposition offered 100$ per day for the care of a southern teacher’s pet while they are going down south for the winter holidays. KI was willing to pay 1400$ minimum for the care of a dog and give 500$ as a bonus to local teachers to recognize their engagement. This is where KI failed its employees. How do we have to feel about that? Now they are trying to fix it up and making it look more fair, but its hard to forget. They are putting the blame on the collective agreement, its too easy. The dog thing is not in the collective agreement, along with the bonus they originally planned.

    • Posted by Thanks for some facts on

      You’ve shared some good points, I totally agree with how you’ve shared this and thank you for avoiding the rhetoric of “us versus them” that many commenters are making that fails to address the bigger issue of the imbalance of benefits offered to locals.

      There was an internal memo today that said the commissioners reassessed their decision and now locally hired teachers will get 1000 each and an additional 500 per dependent. And the “pet sitting” amount, which was probably made to be 100$ a day due to the cost of a kennel in the south, was reduced to 25$ a day. Hopefully the teachers with pets who had arranged to have their Inuit friends pet sit for them aren’t too disappointed now since the amount they would’ve made has been drastically reduced. 🙁

      Having lots of people travel with pets will only complicate the return flights and maybe delay the class start up for classes whose teachers still travelled home to the south to see their families.

  10. Posted by Nunavimiu on

    I work in the south and I’d like to go up for Christmas. Is that allowed? I wonder if KI Inuit staff living in Montreal will get a bonus too… might be time to switch organizations.

    • Posted by Yup! on

      To answer your question, yes the Inuit who are working for KI and who live in another community and have travel benefits are also receiving the travel bonus (like southern teachers who have travel benefits). I think the idea was to avoid having additional people travelling to Nunavik who are in high Covid areas. So Inuit are getting the travel offset payment too.

  11. Posted by What’s with the North? on

    What is it with coming north to professionals that they have to be paid above and beyond our breaking point in money and in stirring inequalities in their work place and in our communities? Is the North so dreadful and forbidden and a place that requires a protection from the real bounty of living? Most of those same professionals, teachers, doctors, nurses, they go about telling great tall tales of adventure and excitement, only it must be one big lie they are preaching, if they can only do it with a great strain on our budget. I don’t see much adventure and excitement when I see these people get about their jobs and living. They are living
    Lonely in a big three bedroom house next door to a local family who are adventurous and excited, but as such a large family they can’t afford much. This is actually sickening, not just wrong.

    • Posted by Dave on

      You’re missing the point.

      For every profession you have mentioned, there is a shortage in Canada. Right now there is a national teacher shortage in Canada, and it isn’t getting better. In fact, COVID has likely made it easier for Nunavik and Nunavut to hire teachers this year only.
      You know who else is desperate for teachers…… BC. British Columbia or Nunavik…. easy choice.

      You want people in demand to come, you work on their terms. As it is, watch how many don’t return north after Christmas, because the job market for teachers is hot right now.

  12. Posted by Should depend on Qualifications- Don’t you think! on

    I agree that there should be equal pay for equal work, for equal qualifications- regardless of where you come from. Ms, Kauki is obviously an educated individual- if you read her post, you will see that she is a QUALIFIED teacher, she went to school, studied, and obtained her B.ED and as such deserves to be treated the same as any qualified teacher from the south.

    If you are unqualified, regardless of your position or where you come from, Nunavik or south, why should you get a larger amount? If an unqualified southern teacher wants to stay in Nunavik, then perhaps they get the $500, instead of the larger amount, or they can go home.

    Equal pay for Equal Qualification in the only thing that make sense.

  13. Posted by Northern Guy on

    When you are a jurisdiction that is unable to fully employ from within the local labour force and are not considered a desirable area to work in; then those that are willing to work there and are hired from the outside have significant bargaining power and can demand additional resources that are not necessarily provided to local hires. I can guarantee you that if the school board would be able to fully staff their schools with local hires no one would be receiving these inducements.

  14. Posted by AENQ President on

    The school board’s handling of the situation is poor, but what it wanted was to minimize the risk of bringing coronavirus to Nunavik. Beautiful intentions that have resulted in a crisis that must be addressed. Same job equal same treatment. Basically, the regime of regional disparities was to attract people from the South to work in the North. There was, among other things, the isolation and remoteness premium that many called the cost of living premium. We are now in a different era. The working conditions offered by KI must be attractive not only to southern workers, but also to locals, or rather, to Inuit. Since several rounds of negotiations, unions have been trying to improve the working conditions of all members, teachers, support staff and professionals. Getting the same working conditions for everyone is one of their priorities, as is the educational success of young people. Adding resources to schools has been and still is a priority issue. The same working conditions for all is another. At each round of negotiations, AENQ tries and will continue to try to improve all its members’ working conditions. But the negotiations are not just between two parties: union and school board, there is also the Quebec government at the negotiation tables. He is the one who holds the purse strings and he is the one saying no when it is time to pay. The school board can be blamed for its management of outings for the holiday season, but it cannot be blamed at the same level as the government for the working conditions of its employees. Finally, the AENQ wishes to offer its full support to Mary Johanne Kauki.

  15. Posted by ppl cant understand on

    can’t ppl understand that bonus is there for 2 reason i to keep the covid away and second those teacher that decide to stay here wont see there family… give me the option 2900$ spend xmas without my family , or getting 500$ a week and be able to spend xmas with my family, ill take the 500$ option… i understand right and equality but there something call common sense

    • Posted by Local teacher on

      If I could go see my family without putting anybody at risk, I would. No money would prevent me for doing so. This is a very poor argument.
      Some southern teachers decided to stay way before knowing about the incentive. They knew it was special (terrible) time and it was better to stay up north. We are in the middle of a pandemic, nothing is normal and its the case for everybody. A majority of those teachers spent the spring and the summer with their family. Locals didn’t travelled since the beginning of March and haven’t since family members who are down south since then!. It’s you who have to try to understand.

      • Posted by StaySafe on

        I am a Nunavut teacher and without incentives I would not be here. I am a specialist and was specifically recruited. Maintaining a connection to my family in the South is critical to retaining me. There is a severe teacher shortage down South. I can pick my employer. Nunavut either accommodates my logistics or loses my services, with no replacement. If Nunavut attempts to make me pay for 2 weeks of isolation, I will resign and take my skills somewhere else.

        • Posted by If you were in BC on

          Just a question for you. If you were in BC teaching or another province rather than you home, would you expect to be paid to go see mom or another family member.? Or is the fact that you are teaching in the north, it carries a soldiers mission, therefore pay me to get out.

          • Posted by StaySafe on

            There is no hub isolation if I travel to Saskatchewan. Only self-isolation on symptoms or positive test. No employment is contingent. Nunavut imposes a 2-week hub isolation which is a direct result of my relocating for work and the recruitment from the south. They are intertwined. I agree to hub isolate on my employer’s dime on my employer’s time. That’s a cost of recruitment and retention specific to remote communities. It doesn’t apply elsewhere, so your question is a false comparison. I can work from isolation on curriculum improvement. That is professionalism, a term used in my recruitment contract.

  16. Posted by ChesLey on

    Kativik Ilisarniliriniq employees/teachers are being paid well, their union can take care of the contract. Being thankful for what we have is important when you take a minute to reflect on the problems some peoples have today… Yeman, Syria, Palestine….

  17. Posted by Former Southern Teacher on

    I am a southern teacher who worked in Nunavik for several years. There was always a lot of anger and misinformation about money that teachers make. I heard one person tell students that southern teachers make $200,000+/year!!! I paid taxes on $89,000/year, but this was definitely not how much I got to keep. There was so much taxable income through KI that I never saw or had control over (expensive flights as non-Inuit, cargo, housing etc.) After all that I got to keep $1600 a paycheck (= $41,600/year in my pocket). This is including the retention bonus and northern allowance. I can tell you that I actually make MORE than that working as a teacher in my home province (about $46,000 in my pocket). People motivated by big money don’t go to Quebec, because teachers have the lowest salary in the country and pay the highest taxes! But I still had local people saying I only came for the money, when it was really like any other basic full-time job in the south without the comforts of the south. If KI adopted the system of Nunavut, all teachers would be paid a salary according to their level of education/experience and southern teachers would be offered bonuses to attract them to the north if there weren’t enough local teachers. Then all teachers (local and non) would pay their own flights, rent, cargo etc. just like anywhere else. This way, local teachers would have no reason to be upset and many southern teachers would probably stay in the north over holidays anyway because they’d save $3000-$4000 in flight costs!

  18. Posted by Teacher on

    There is more to seeing family when non-local teachers go home. We get emails several times a year reminding us that we should not be using the services of the clinic or taking time off of work for check-ups, yearly physicals, dentist, and the list goes on. Non-local teachers are told to do these in the south and only to use the clinic when we get sick here. Every time I go south I have to do all of my appointments in one shot. I have never been upset by that. Yes, there are many other things to take care of in the south too. We lose housing if we leave for more than 30 days during the school year. So we must maintain links in the south in case we have an accident or a health crisis. Going south is not ‘just a vacation’ for non-locals. PS. The take home pay is less than most places in Canada which is why KI has a hard time retaining teachers to begin with. We do not do it for the money.

    • Posted by Please stay home on

      I never heard of the clinic in Nunavik not welcoming a southern teacher or otherwise. If you are so deprived of services as you describe, why are you even remotely thinking , not to mention teaching in Nunavik? Many people , teachers including have move to a new place and job. If people are moving to Nunavik, but leaving their hearts and souls in the south, I want you to stay in the south, teacher, police, doctor nurse or otherwise. Don’t want you here, I’m speaking for many if not all.

    • Posted by You lose housing on

      Can you explain how you lose housing with more than 30 days absent? From what , the North or south perspective? About health care: if you’re from Quebec then you are covered in Quebec, doesn’t matter what region. If you’re from another province like Ontario or Nova Scotia, you’re covered by that province, but as three months go by you should have coverage in Quebec health care. I’m not understanding where your issue of appointments are in south, as you are not connected anymore by health care in south, if you are living in Nunavik, well Quebec yes, but even that provincial connection is now applied as you are a Nunavik resident. Or is it that teachers don’t have to change their health care card or keep all their connection to the south? Something don’t make sense here.

      • Posted by Experienced the same issue on

        I have been a resident and teacher in Nunavut for 4 years. I have a Nunavut health card. I am originally from Alberta. Over the last 4 years I can think of at least 6 times the local Health Centre in my community has told me that I cannot get an appointment for the dentist and the optometrist. Their reasoning was that since I would be traveling down south at some point I could make an appointment then. Did not matter if I was going in 2 months or 6 months. So yes, people often travel down south for more than just to see their family.

  19. Posted by Inuk3 on

    BLABLABLABLA, this also points directly to the failure of graduating HS with worthy skills. KI students do not develop study habits need to move into CEGEP or University. Community, family, and school have to get this right.
    It does not help when Inuit in particular get valued less than imported teachers. It feeds the shame Inuit. Also this is about one region, not province to province. Do not try to muck it up. The whole thing is ugly.

  20. Posted by What’s your name and where you from? on

    It doesn’t matter if you were born here or there. What counts is the fact that you are here. Now, being here and not really arriving from there to be here is the problem. Many people living in the North are not really living in the North. I know many , lots of professionals that live in Nunavik, but fully unaware of what is happening in the community. Very out of touch with Inuit, the culture and day to day healthy interactions. They don’t mix among local people for not wanting to , or are just too absorbed into whatever it is. Nunavik has a population within even the largest communities to accommodate known each other in some capacity. There and too many people in our Nunavik communities, not really living here, they’re just here. This is unhealthy to our way of living. The people that can’t live here without interaction with local people should not be here. It matters not who or what you are. What kind of education are our children getting from some that live and teach with guarded lives, in hiding from the population? I don’t want my kids being taught by such.

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