NTUC Foodfare has issued a statement in response to online allegations of its management of Old Airport Road Hawker Centre (OAHC).
In a statement issued on Tuesday (24 October), Foodfare, which runs nine social enterprise hawker centres including OAHC, addressed issues including table cleaning charges, mandatory insurance coverage for hawkers, operating hours and signing of tenancy contracts.
While the statement did not refer to any specific post, Facebook user Gary Ho has made several allegations about the running of OAHC, citing a hawker that he claimed to “know very well”.
In a recent post on his Facebook page, Ho said the hawkers at OAHC were made to sign “legal documents in English” without a translator. He also claimed that the hawkers had to “buy mandatory insurance of $100+ per annum which covers the public areas outside their stall.”
Ho also said that the monthly cleaning costs “rose to $500+ from $300+”. In addition, the new contract that the hawkers have signed “mandates that they must stay open for super long hours”, according to his post.
In its statement, Foodfare gave a recap of events that led to the revision of table cleaning charges at OAHC, which it managed as from 1 July 2017.
On 30 June 2017, Foodfare was alerted by the Hawker Association (HA) that the current table cleaning contractor assigned to OAHC had gone missing. HA approached the National Environment Agency (NEA) and Foodfare to help source for an interim cleaning contractor.
Foodfare brought in an interim cleaning contractor for six months until December 2017 and negotiated for a similar rate charged by the previous contractor for its service.
At the request of HA, an open tender for a new contractor was called in September 2017 before the expiry of the interim contract. The new contractor had to meet requirements specified by the NEA. The tender bids were structured based on a three-tier pricing as requested by HA.
Three bids were shortlisted and tabled to HA for its decision, with the contract taking effect from 1 January 2018. After the new contractor was chosen, the hawkers at OAHC were informed in December 2017 of the new monthly charges inclusive of GST: $374.50 (pastry/dim sum stalls), $513.60 (drinks/dessert stalls), and $588.50 (cooked food stalls).
“In the spirit of providing the best support to the hawkers in difficult times, NTUC Foodfare works hand in hand with the HA to ensure that the tender exercise is transparent and consultative, taking in their views so that the appointed contractor serves their operational needs and at an acceptable rate,” Foodfare said.
On the allegation of “unexpected mandatory insurance of $100 a year”, Foodfare said during the signing of the tenancy agreement, it explains to hawkers a checklist, which includes “the public liability insurance for the hawker’s own protection against third-party claims, not limited to fire, food poisoning and etc as required by NEA”. The hawkers are free to engage their own insurers and this is in line with the practice at other NEA managed hawker centres.
Foodfare also responded to the allegation that hawkers are “forced to stay open for long hours”. For incumbent hawkers who were in operation at OAHC as at 1 July 2017, Foodfare said it does “not enforce a minimum number of operating hours nor limit the number of rest day/s per week” on them.
For hawkers who are “newly awarded” a stall at OAHC, they will “need to operate a minimum of 8 hours and enjoy 1 rest day per week”. Should they require to apply for leave for valid personal reasons, they can notify the managing agent. Foodfare said only two current hawkers have to fulfil these requirements, adding that it has not received any feedback from the hawkers on any difficulty in meeting the minimum required hours.
On the allegation that hawkers were “being asked to sign contracts they could not read or understand”, Foodfare said upon awarding a stall to a hawker, it takes him or her through the tenancy agreement and the checklist. The checklist is available in English and Mandarin, and the hawker will need to sign off to confirm that he or she understands the content of the agreement.