Hawkers operating at Our Tampines Hub Hawker Centre (OTH) will no longer need to operate round the clock from 1 January next year.
The hawker centre – which is run by OTMH, the social enterprise arm of food court giant Kopitiam – was the only one among 114 hawker centres in Singapore that operates 24 hours daily.
However, stallholders have complained in recent months of low footfall during the wee hours while still having to open their stalls under their contractual agreement, which stipulates 24-hour operation based on residents’ feedback before it opened in November 2016.
Recalibration of arrangement
On Monday (19 November), Senior Minister of State for the Environment and Water Resources Amy Khor said in Parliament that the hawkers and centre operator will “recalibrate their arrangement”, in reply to parliamentary questions.
“At OTH, the community had initially asked for a 24-hour hawker centre. But as the demand from patrons has not materialised, both hawkers and the operator will recalibrate the arrangement,” she said. “With the changes made to operating hours, hawkers who do not wish to continue with the 24-hour operations which they had previously signed up for, can do so now.”
Of the 42 hawker stalls at OTH, 29 had already ceased 24-hour operations. The other 13 stalls have already taken up the offer from the operator to stop their round-the-clock operations from 1 January.
A spokesman from Kopitiam told The Straits Times that the company held a feedback dialogue two weeks ago with stallholders, and none of them opted for 24-hour operations.
Andrew Hwang, a hawker in his 30s who runs a fish soup stall at OTH and opted out of 24-hour operations, told The Straits Times that he would be able to save about $3,000 per month on operating costs, as he would not have to hire an assistant to cover 12-hour shifts.
Tweaks to Social Enterprises Hawker Model
The change is part of a series of tweaks that the National Environment Agency (NEA) is making to hawkers’ contractual terms under the Social Enterprises Hawker Centre (SEHC) model. These tweaks will also take effect from 1 January.
For instance, stallholders are not obliged to work more than five days a week. Operators will also offer them options on their operating hours and off-days. Furthermore, if stallholders wish to terminate their tenancy contract and serve sufficient notice, operators will not forfeit the security deposit nor require the stallholders to pay rent of more than two months or until a replacement is found.
The OTH is among seven hawker centres under the model, which has come under flak recently over what the NEA described as “onerous” contract terms for dishwashing, rental costs and working hours.
Despite the recent flak, Khor said, “We will continue to make adjustments and recalibrate the SEHC model to ensure that it continues to achieve the key social outcomes of our hawker centres: provide affordable food in a clean environment; allow hawkers to make a decent living; and build communities.
“We will seek and listen to feedback from hawkers and patrons, and continue with our stocktake to further improve the model.”