SINGAPORE: NTUC Foodfare on Wednesday (Oct 24) responded to online allegations made against the management of Old Airport Road Hawker Centre (OAHC) in a Facebook post that was widely circulated.
Mr Gary Ho, a regular patron of the hawker centre, posted on Facebook on Tuesday about a series of changes affecting its hawkers.
Mr Ho wrote that he was told by a hawker of a spike in their cleaning fees, as well as new regulations imposed on them, including a requirement to inform the management if they were closing their stall.
"The new contract they signed also mandates that they must stay open for super long hours," he wrote.
"The old hawkers protested to this and are not complying. They said if they force them to open, they might as well close and retire."
On Wednesday afternoon, NTUC Foodfare responded to the allegations, saying that most stalls do not have to stick to the new stipulated opening hours.
It said that only two new hawkers are required to operate a minimum number of hours a day.
Incumbent hawkers are free to decide their operating hours and days of stall closure but will have to notify the managing agent.
"In an effort to promote a vibrant centre to cater for three meals a day for diners, hawkers who are newly awarded a stall at OAHC will need to operate a minimum of eight hours and enjoy one rest day per week," NTUC Foodfare said.
"Currently, there are only two hawkers operating under this scheme at OAHC. We have not received any feedback from both hawkers on any difficulty meeting the minimum required hours."
The statement added: "If they need to apply for leave for valid personal reasons or take medical leave, they will just need to notify the managing agent."
CLEANING CONTRACTOR "WENT MISSING"
NTUC Foodfare said in its media statement that the monthly cleaning charges did increase after they had to replace the previous cleaning contractor who "had gone missing".
It said that they were told by the Hawker Association about the disappearance of the previous contractor the day before it was appointed OAHC's managing agent on Jul 1 last year.
They then found an interim table cleaning contractor who provided the service up to December last year at the same rate as the previous contractor.
The cost of cleaning charges increased this year after a new cleaning contractor was appointed following a tender exercise.
"The bids were evaluated and shortlisted based on a set of evaluation criteria such as the vendor’s ability to deploy sufficient manpower, track record and pricing," NTUC Foodfare said.
Three bids which best met the requirements were then shortlisted and tabled to the Hawker Association for its decision, it added.
For stalls selling drinks and juices, the monthly cleaning charge went up to S$513.60 from S$350. For pastries and kueh stalls, it rose to S$374.50 from S$250. For cooked food stalls, it increased to S$588.50 from a range of S$420 to S$450.
NTUC Foodfare said that the hawkers were informed of the new charges in December last year.
Mr Ho also wrote that the hawker had told him they had to sign legal documents in English which were not translated and he complained of having to pay for mandatory insurance of more than S$100 a year.
In response, NTUC Foodfare said that they would provide a stallholder with a checklist written both in English and in Chinese when awarding a stall.
The hawker would need to sign off to acknowledge that he or she understood the agreement, which consists of conditions including the purchase of insurance coverage.
NTUC said hawkers at OAHC are required to purchase a public liability insurance which protects them against third-party claims, including those related to food poisoning.
"The hawker is free to engage their own insurer. This is per the same practice at other NEA managed hawker centres," it said.