New, Multilingual Leaflet on Caregiver & Nursing Care Leave

Just had a baby? Elderly parents need help at home? Want more information but everything is in Japanese?

The Ministry of Health, Welfare, and Labour has produced a new, multilingual pamphlet available online.

It covers:

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When Is A National Holiday Not A "National" Holiday?

holidayIt seems that whenever a national holiday rolls around - be it Coming of Age Day, Health and Sports Day, or the ever esoteric-sounding Vernal Equinox Day - there is a percentage of the population who can only glare at the calendar and ask, "if this national holiday is so "national", why don't I get the day off as well?"

For those people who are left out in the proverbial cold on such occasions, forced to work as usual while other people enjoy their three-day weekends, the phrase "national holiday" can feel like a bit of a cruel joke.

How can a national holiday be a "national holiday" if it's not a holiday for the entire nation?

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Saturday, July 20th - The Real Trade Union News in Japan!

We are inviting all union members and other interested members of the English-speaking community to participate in a rare opportunity. 

As you know, we have been supporting the arrested and detained union members from the "All Japan Construction and Transport Solidarity Union - Kansai Ready Mix Concrete Branch", also known as "Kan'nama"  (and these arrests are continuing - click here for more information).

We've now raised over 300,000 yen for their defense campaign and they thank us all for our support - including our participation in court-day events and picketing the Osaka Police Headquarters.

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Saturday, 20 July - The real trade union news in Japan!

We are inviting all union members and other members of the English speaking community to participate in a rare opportunity. 

As you know, we have been supporting arrested and detained union members (and these arrests are continuing - click here for more information) from the All Japan Construction and Transport Solidarity Union - Kansai Ready Mix Concrete Branch (Kan'nama). We've now raised over 300,000yen for their defence campaign and they thank us all for our support, including participating in court day events and picketing the Osaka Police Headquarters.

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Consultation: "I Was Illegally Employed And Illegally Fired! What Are My Options?"

gu consultation

The General Union receives multiple inquiries from people on a daily basis, and a lot of the assistance that we provide is often helpful for other people.

This "consultation" series aims to share some of the advice that we give to members and non-members alike.

In this consultation:

I was recently employed for five months. The employer promised a work visa, then delayed doing the paperwork and repeatedly underpaid the salary that I was promised. They recently also fired me for no reason with only four days of notice. Do I have any legal recourse since they hired me illegally, promised a work visa, and fired me without reason and without 30 days of notice? 

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Consultation: "Our Employment Conditions Are Getting Worse! What Can We Do?"

gu consultation

The General Union receives multiple inquiries from people on a daily basis, and a lot of the assistance that we provide is often helpful for other people.

This "consultation" series aims to share some of the advice that we give to members and non-members alike.

In this consultation:

I have been working at a small international pre-school for several years. It has never been an easy job but over the years the working conditions have been getting worse and worse. We're struggling with issues of bullying, spotty shakai hoken enrolment, no sick pay, no breaks, and no paid preparation time. What can we do? Thank you in advance. 

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Consultation: "My Company Didn't Enrol Me In National Pension!"

gu consultation

The General Union receives multiple inquiries from people on a daily basis, and a lot of the assistance that we provide is often helpful for other people.

This "consultation" series aims to share some of the advice that we give to members and non-members alike.

In this consultation:

 I am a foreign employee. I was working full-time as an English teacher at my soon-to-be former company. I am changing jobs right now, and my new employer has asked me for my pension number. When I told my current employer that I needed this information, he said he never enrolled me in pension at all. What can I do? 

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Overtime Q&A

overtime qaWhen it comes to Japanese labor law, figuring out how much extra overtime money you're entitled to (as well as the laws that govern such things) can be a very confusing process rife with conflicting information and complicated legalese.

Luckily, the General Union is here to help you make sense of things with this handy Q&A!

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Consultation: "My Company Isn't Paying My Half Of Insurance!"

gu consultation

The General Union receives multiple inquiries from people on a daily basis, and a lot of the assistance that we provide is often helpful for other people.

This "consultation" series aims to share some of the advice that we give to members and non-members alike.

In this consultation:

 My company didn't inform me about health insurance and pensions when I started working for them several years ago. They expected me to leave Japan after a year, but I stayed. Since then, I've never paid anything into the system. My company said that there is social insurance, and that I need to pay half and the company needs to pay half. 

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A Fair Deal for Contract Workers - Seminars

Osaka - Sunday, 25 November
1300 - 1700 :: L-Osaka in Tenmabashi (bit.ly/L-Osaka) - schedule

Nagoya - Sunday, 2 December
1300 - 1700 : Allbasu Bldg. 5 minutes from Nagoya Stn. (bit.ly/Allbasu) - schedule

Public Labour Rights Seminar 
ALL WELCOME

Topics include (depends on location): 

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Government Negotiations Set For November 5th (2018)

The General Union - along with our sister unions in the National Union of General Workers (NUGW), Fukuoka General Union, Tokyo Roso, and Tokyo Nambu -submitted demands to the Ministry of Health, Labour, and Welfare (MHLW) and the Ministry of Education and Training (MEXT) through Constitutional Democratic Party lawmaker Tomoko Abe's office.

Negotiation items include the following: 

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The Truth About Non-Socialization Clauses

If you've ever worked for an English Conversation School (aka Eikaiwa) or a Dispatch Company, you may have run afoul of one of the many "Non-Socialization Clauses" that such companies seem to enjoy threatening people with.

While the General Union has fought against and defeated these clauses before (and is still fighting them), a recent e-mail that landed in our inbox prompted us to write a little more about the topic...

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Can An Employer Prohibit You From Talking About Salary?

"I work for a dispatch company. My company says that - among various other things - employees are prohibited from talking about salary with other employees. Is this legal?"

To find the answer to this question, we asked our lawyer about the legality of prohibiting inter-employee discussions about salary in Japan. Is it something than an employer can enforce, or is it just wishful thinking?

Unfortunately, as we found out, there is no black-and-white solution to this tricky problem.

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Changing Jobs? Don't Forget To Tell Immigration!

If you're a mid- or long-term resident who doesn't have the status of "Permanent Resident" or "Spouse" (full list below), you are required by law to inform the Immigration Bureau of Japan about any changes in employment within 14 days of that change (Article 19-16 and Article 19-17 of the Immigration Control Act). 

Don't panic if you didn't know about this law or haven't done so within the period specified - but making sure to inform the Immigration Bureau "sooner" rather than "later" or "not at all" is always a good idea.

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7 Tidbits Of Salary Information That Everyone Should Know

If it isn't already at number one, your salary is perhaps one of the most important things in your life at any given time.

We'd all probably much rather say that our relationships with other people or the successes in our careers are far more important; and yet, from a pragmatic perspective, money is the lubricant that we need to make sure all our ambitions and goals are functioning smoothly.

With that in mind, here are seven simple things that everyone should know about salary that's either overpaid or underpaid: 

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8 Important Facts About Paid Annual Leave

Just this past weekend, we held some mini-labor seminars for members working in smaller schools or at places where we don't have many members.

One of the topics that raised the most questions was that of paid leave/holidays/sick leave.

You can find some basic points below, with more details in the articles linked at the bottom. 

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How To Resign (With Template Letter)

One of the more common queries that the General Union receives is the question of how an employee should actually go about the resignation process - what they should tell their employer, how much notice they need to give, and what they should write in a resignation letter.

If you're someone who is currently planning an exit strategy, we have a basic template that you can use for your resignation letter - as well as some information and pointers to go along with it.

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Unpaid Internships in Japan - A Scam!

Will Work For FreeA few days ago (at the time of writing), James from ALTInsider came across an unpaid "Internship in Japan: Assistant English Teacher (Instructor)" position being offered by GoAbroad.com (the placement company) on behalf of Little Star Co, Ltd (the host company).

Being the curious type, this lead James to ask the General Union the kind of question that we're (unfortunately) all too used to dealing with:

"So, this is illegal... right?"

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Illegal Contract Clauses (Part VII): Small Schools And Wage Theft And Fines (Oh My!)

Seems Like A Fair DealWe all know that the bigger dispatch companies and chain eikawa can be rather creative when it comes to their "interpretations" of labor law.

Conditions of a questionable nature are often worded in such a way as to make them sound positively beneficial for all involved, while any challenges to such creative writing can often end up sounding like a Monty Python skit.

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What If: You Go To Work Drunk (And Get Dismissed)?

Eey! Premium Friday!In celebration of that new limited-edition Strong Zero flavor that just came out, you take it upon yourself to drink ALL of the Strong Zero flavors that you've never tried before (and even some you have).

The next day, you stagger into work, still intoxicated by the amount of SCIENCE that you'd conducted just a few hours previously (but mostly by all of that alcohol).

Your boss laughs at your antics and tells you to go home to sleep it off. Nice!

"And don't come back." Oh.

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"What Can I Do To Prevent Contract Termination Penalties?"

sexual harassment"I am currently working for a company in Japan, but I must leave before the contract is over. I am concerned that my company is going to attempt to fine me or not give me my final salary before I leave the country.

What can I do to prevent this?"

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"Overtime Included In Salary"

In 2016, the Research Institute for the Advancement of Living Standards (RENGO-RIALS) found that some 38.2% of employees who worked overtime (in September of that year) were not actually paid for that work, averaging a total of 40.3 hours of unpaid overtime per person.

On a similar note, a former Bank of Japan official estimated that employees in Japan work an average of 200 hours of unpaid overtime per year, totalling around ¥440,000 of lost income per person (source).

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Danada Rin - The Labor Standards Inspector

Here's an interesting (Amusing? Inspiring?) Japanese series about a Labor Standards Office, now on YouTube with English subtitles.

While it's not quite the reality of what we see on a regular basis, the series apparently did inspire a sharp increase in job applicants for the Labor Standards Office.

(Hopefully it also inspired the LSO to enforce more cases with the arrest powers they hold, too.)

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Dismissed? 30 Days Of Notice OR 30 Days Of Pay

We don't write about this subject quite so often anymore because most employers that the union deals with already know that if a company wants to (legally) dismiss someone, the employer must give the employee 30 days notice or 30 days of pay in lieu of notice.

It's a law we maybe should remind members of more often because it happened again just the other day...

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"Five-Year Rule": Questions From The Union To The Labor Ministry

Recently, the General Union spoke with representatives from the Ministry of Health, Welfare, and Labor (MHLW) in regards to the "Five-Year Limited-to-Unlimited Contract Conversion Rule" (henceforth referred to as the "five-year rule").

With employers reluctant to give limited-term workers the right to change to unlimited-term contracts, there are currently numerous cases across the country of employers attempting to limit (either retro- or pro-actively) the total length of employment that current and future employees will be able to maintain with the employer in question.

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Health Care Card Changes For Transgender People

On August 31st, 2017, the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare sent a notification to health insurance-related institutions telling them to allow transgender people to use their preferred name for their health insurance card.

Unfortunately, English versions of the neither the government notification nor the NHK article yet available (as of the time of writing).

Links to Japanese documents follow below.

Is A Mistake In A Labor Contract Legally Binding?

A few weeks ago, the General Union received an unusual query: the correction of one mistake in a labor contract had resulted in a new contract being issued.

However, the new contract had a different error of its own - one that put the employee's monthly salary at ¥50,000 higher than before.

Suffice to say, an extra ¥50,000 per month is quite an advantageous mistake!

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Coming To Japan And Need To Drive? Make Sure You Don't Break The Law

If you're newly arrived and driving in Japan, it`s important to have the correct kind of license.

First, make sure you have a driver’s license from your own country. Be sure it doesn't expire soon or that is hasn't already expired!

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So, You're Being Evicted...

You thought that these kinds of things only happened to other people, but now it's happening to you: your company just decided to dismiss you without reason.

This alone would be bad news, but they're also demanding that you vacate the "company apartment" by the end of the week - and they're being very vocal about it!

They say that they can "legally" evict you, but do you really have to go?

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MEXT's 2018/2020 "New Course Of Study In Foreign Language Education" Plan

Continuing with its policy of "everything will work out in the end", the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology (MEXT) is pushing ahead with its plan to overhaul the way that English is taught at elementary schools across the entire country.

Intended to be implemented between now and 2020, MEXT recently revealed how these changes to English will be implemented in its plan for a "Transition Towards The Smooth Implementation Of The New Course Of Study In Foreign Language Education" (外国語教育における新学習指導要領の円滑娱施に向けた移行指直).

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Labor Standards Law And Trade Union Law - How Are They Different?

David was working at a small Eikaiwa, full-time, 40 hours a week. He was told that he had to attend a summer barbecue on a Sunday afternoon. His employer insisted that he pay the fee for food like all of the students who were invited. When he asked whether he would received some compensation for his time, his employer responded that it was "required" that he attend since he was a full time employee. On top of his full week of teaching, David had to go to this event as well. He was not offered another day off in lieu of his extra day of work.

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The "Five Year Cliff” vs. Article 19

In many companies and industries across Japan, contracts with wording such as "expires with fiscal year 2017” are quickly being penned with the aim of denying limited-term workers the chance to switch to unlimited-term employment in the spring of 2018.

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A Small Victory For LGBTQ Rights In The Workplace

It's fair to say that acceptance of LGBTQ rights in Japan have greatly progressed over the years, with even the Ministry of Education raising the issue with both the rights and equal treatment of LGBTQ students with schools.

However, while it can be said that Japan has never experienced the kind of homophobic attitudes that other cultures have, progress in the workplace remains slow.

Gay couples do not usually receive the same rights as their heterosexual peers, in part due to a lack of same-sex marriage equality.

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Labour Standards Law Q&A

Note: The General Union takes no responsibility for any problems you may encounter by using this information in your own disputes with your employer.

We have seen non-union members fired after talking about the law with their boss. It is far safer to join the union and negotiate with your company as an equal, rather than simply as an employee.

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"Knowing Is Half The Battle"

If you were a child of the 1980s, there's a good chance that you grew up with at least a passive awareness of Hasbro's ubiquitous G.I. Joe line of toys, comic books, trading cards, movies, and even a number of video games. There's also a good chance that you might be familiar with the iconic slogan of: "Knowing is half the battle."

When it comes to dealing with labor issues, the catchphrase of "knowing is half the battle" might be more applicable than you think.

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Benefits for Working Parents

Most people know that women are entitled to maternity leave prior to the birth of their child, and child care leave after the birth (child care leave is available for both parents). You might not know though that the law provides for other benefits to lighten the burden on parents.

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Of K-Mart, Unions, And How The Grass Isn't Always Greener On The Other Side

While you may not think it at times, when it comes to union protections and rights, we have it pretty good in Japan.

The following video was produced by K-MART in an effort to undermine the Teamster union (led by warehouse workers at the company's Newnan GA facility) from organizing. The (archived) video is full of misinformation and lies about unions. A copy was mailed to all workers in the bargaining unit days prior to their NLRB election.

Unfortunately, such activity is not illegal in the USA, and the same can be said for other countries, too...

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New Movement In Tohoku University's "Dismiss People Before The Labor Contract Act Revision Takes Effect" Plans

A while ago, the General Union reported on Tohoku University's plan to dismiss over three-thousand fixed-term employees in an effort to circumvent revisions to the Labor Contract Act that will force the University to improve its employment relationship with those who have worked at the University for five or more years.

Due to the incredible backlash and criticism from a coalition of unions in the area, Tohoku University has backpedalled on the issue somewhat, but the fight is still far from over...

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Is a Pokemon Go ban legal?

We recently received an interesting question.

Can a school ban a JET from playing Pokemon Go in their free time before and after school? This didn't happen to me but a friend.

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Accident Insurance, Bicycle Commutes, and You

Did you know that an accident during your bicycle commute to and from work or school is covered by ROSAI HOKEN?

Did you also know that some companies say that an accident during your bicycle commute to and from work or school is NOT covered by ROSAI HOKEN?

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A Guide To Privacy Laws In Japan

We've previously discussed privacy rights in regards to things like the "My Number" system, being recorded or photographed at work, drug testing, medical checks, and various other situations in which a person's right to privacy might be violated by an employer or other entity.

However, while you might be aware that you have a right to privacy, you might not know how the laws actually protect you.

To remedy that, let's take a look at the specific laws and acts that exist to protect your individual privacy rights.

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Bicycles, Insurance, and Laws (Oh My!)

On July 1st, 2016, in Osaka Prefecture, a new ordinance that requires all bicycle owners to have bicycle liability insurance came into effect. In addition, a lot of people might not know that, due to "a rise in the number of bicycle related fatalities, injuries, and accidents", a revision to the Japanese Road Traffic Law came into effect on June 1st, 2015.

If you've ever been unsure about bicycle laws, or if you've ever wondered if your bicycle adventures need insurance to prevent them from becoming costly misadventures, now is the time to look into things!

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Does Your Employer Have The Right To Record Video Of You?

Recently, a teacher working for Interac e-mailed the General Union in regards to the company's practice of recording video (and taking photos) of people during "ongoing training sessions", "observation lessons", and other occasions, without their prior consent. In addition, the teacher noted that even if people wanted to refuse, there is a clause in the employment contract which gives Interac the teacher's "understand[ing] and agree[ment]" to be recorded without permission.

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Paid Holidays: The Law vs Your Workplace

The July 24th (2016) edition of the Japan Times ("Questions About Paid Leave") provided a very good overview of the law covering paid leave (yūkyū kyūka). However, when taking this article into consideration, we must compare what the law guarantees versus the reality of your working environment.

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Berlitz Teacher Wins Court Case Against Japan Pension Service

On March 17th, 2016, at the District Court in Tokyo, an employee of Berlitz won a case against the Japan Pension Service for their decision (in 2008) to allow Berlitz to "kick [the employee] off" the Shakai Hoken system after his working hours dropped below thirty hours a week.

Berlitz had used the infamous "29.5 Hour Rule" as justification for their unethical practice, claiming that as the employee fell below the "30 Hour Threshold" he was no longer eligible for Shakai Hoken enrolment.

However, the "30 Hour Threshold" (and any claims that it is "the law") is nothing more than a myth - and the General Union recently proved this in court once and for all, paving the way for cases like this one to finally be considered seriously.

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Illegal Contract Clauses (Part IV) - The Five Year Non-Compete Ban

One of the greatest tricks that a manager can pull from the pages of "Worker Exploitation 101" is to threaten an employee's livelihood.

The chilling effect that such intimidation can have upon an employee's willingness to stand up for their rights should not be underestimated - especially when a manager invokes contract clauses and legalese to sound more convincing.

In the fourth part of our "Illegal Contract Clause" series, we take a look at just how frightening those threats can be when you don't know your rights, and explain how the law is there to make sure that your manager's bark is worse than their bite.

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Illegal Contract Clauses (Part III) - BL Kids International School

When it comes to contract disputes, telling someone that they "shouldn't have signed it" if they "didn't agree with it" is probably one of the most frustrating things that a person can do.

It's up there with unhelpful titbits of divine wisdom like "you should have read it properly!" and "you should have read the fine print!" that don't serve any real purpose other than shifting the blame from the exploiter to the exploited.

Here's the thing about contracts, though: just because you sign a contract, it doesn't mean that you agree to the illegal clauses within it.

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Illegal Contract Clauses (Part II) - Kinder Kids

In regards to contract laws, an unconscionable contract is a contract that is "so extremely unjust, or overwhelmingly one-sided in favor of the party who has the superior bargaining power, that they are contrary to good conscience".

These kinds of contracts are often deemed to be entirely unenforceable, due to the fact that no sensible person, were they suitably informed, would agree to them.

The key word here, however, is "informed".

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Illegal Contract Clauses (Part I) - Joytalk

In some countries, an illegal clause in a contract will void the entire contract. However, it may surprise some people to learn that this is not the case in Japan.

If a contract contains illegal clauses, the contract remains valid - however, the illegal clauses in question can not be enforced, and are always superseded by the written law.

With this in mind, the General Union is looking into writing a series of articles that will seek to highlight and challenge the various illegal clauses that exist within the contracts that dispatch companies, English conversation schools, and other companies in Japan, often require foreign employees to sign.

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"My Number" System - Points and Reminders

Now that people are starting to receive their new "My Number" social security and tax number system card, here are few important reminders to be aware of:

• The PAPER CARD is mandatory. Keep it safe.

• The PLASTIC CARD is entirely optional, and must be applied for. The application documents are contained in the envelope that the paper card is delivered in.

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Additional information