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NTUC FoodFare refutes online story of overworked elderly hawker as “inaccurate and misleading”

The context behind the incident is vastly different from what was originally reported.

Matthias Ang | November 20, 2018 @ 03:43 pm

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You might have recently heard on Nov. 19 that an old man passed away after working 18-hour days to avoid getting fined by NTUC FoodFare.

Socio-political site Independent.sg reported that the deceased’s long hours were the result of having his appeal to shorten his operating hours rejected by FoodFare.

The article stated that the hawker was warned that he would be fined S$500 for each day he closed, which led to the hawker running the stalls himself from 5am to 11pm daily to avoid the penalties.

However, the story, supposedly reported to the Independent.sg by one of its readers, is not entirely accurate.

Foodfare: “Inaccurate and misleading” 

A spokesperson for Foodfare told Mothership.sg that they never received any request or appeal from the owner of stalls 6 and 7 to shorten operating hours.

The late owner, known as Fong, operated two stalls at the food court of Changi Airport Terminal 4.

Foodfare added that its outlet manager had noticed that Fong was looking unwell on Feb. 19. Accordingly, he persuaded Fong to seek medical treatment while his staff attended to his stall.

They were saddened to hear of Fong’s passing due to heart failure later in the evening.

The spokesperson also clarified that Foodfare rendered assistance to Fong’s family in the aftermath of his passing, whereby they waived the contract pre-termination penalty for stalls 6 and 7.

What’s more, as Fong did not leave behind a will, Foodfare only received the court’s Letter of Administration in October.

Foodfare has since been in contact with Fong’s son and he is aware that Foodfare is currently processing the refund of the security deposit, sales proceeds and return of equipment.

Fong’s son also told Foodfare that the family did not get in touch with any online media to make any complaints.

Another story of an injured hawker getting fined S$3,500

Part of the article also touched on the alleged experience of the reader’s own father as a fellow hawker at stall 4 within the same food court.

In this instance, the reader alleged that her own father had been slapped with a S$3,500 penalty for closing his stall for a week after suffering an injury.

Here’s a summary of what the article further stated with regard to this instance:

  • The reader alleged that her father was forced to work two shifts a day at the stall to avoid penalties for closures,
  • Her father was forced to do so, even after fracturing his foot while working in June 2018, due to a manpower shortage.
  • The manpower shortage was supposedly the result of being prevented from hiring foreigners and a lack of interest from Singaporeans and Permanent Residents (PRs) in taking up a job at a food stall.
  • Eventually, her father had to supposedly stop when his injury worsened.
  • This allegedly resulted in Foodfare imposing a fine of S$3,500 on her father, despite her attempts to explain the situation to them by email.
Source: The Independent.sg
Source: The Independent.sg

Fine supposedly deducted from deposit without family’s permission

The reader’s experience was further detailed in a second article by the Independent.sgwhich touched on the issue of how the fine was supposedly retrieved by Foodfare from her family.

In this article, the reader alleged that the S$3,500 was deducted from the deposit of S$22,600 that had been paid for the stall, which supposedly meant that her family had no choice in the matter.

The reader further alleged that the deduction was done without her family’s authorisation.

When she wrote in to Foodfare about the matter, Aaron Chia, Assistant Operation Manager of the Retail division of NTUC Foodfare, replied:

“Kindly take note that as a stall operator, we cannot take into consideration that one of the staff is down due to unforeseen circumstances and there is no one else back up and to manage the stall. More importantly, there should not be only one person operating the stall.”

The reader also added that her father was on medical leave for 60 days.

Source: The Independent.sg
Source: The Independent.sg
Source: The Independent.sg

Foodfare offered to help waive the charges where they could

On this matter, a spokesperson for Foodfare issued another statement to Mothership.sg for clarification.

The spokesperson stated that as per the contract with the landlords, Foodfare is required to operate certain stipulated operating hours. This in turn means that contracts with stall owners must make clear these stipulated operating hours.

Accordingly, the spokesperson added that the stall licensee for stall 4 had, on two previous occasions, filed a notification for stall closure as her father, who was the cook at her stall, was unable to operate the stall with her due to a work injury.

On the first occasion, the licensee had closed the stall for four days and Foodfare waived the damages set in the terms of the leasing agreement.

While on the second occasion, the licensee had closed the stall for two days, resulting in Foodfare imposing a token penalty charge.

The spokesperson further stated that Foodfare also interceded with the main landlord on her behalf to accommodate her request to open slightly later on two different dates, due to her personal reasons.

On Jun. 10, the licensee wrote in to Foodfare to request a pre-termination of her lease. This was then followed by a request to another licensee. Foodfare agreed to both of the requests and accordingly helped her to facilitate the transfer.

Subsequently, during the period of transfer, the licensee closed the stall for seven days as a result of her father experiencing pain in his leg. The spokesperson noted that the licensee had told the outlet manager that she would open the stall after her father’s medical leave.

However, the licensee did not follow up on this action which resulted in the pre-termination clause being invoked as per the leasing agreement.

Foodfare then attempted to avert the invocation of the clause by appealing to the licensee once more to open the stall within three days, whereby doing so would also see the penalty charge of S$3,500 being waived for the unauthorised closure.

Even so, the licensee still did not do so.

This resulted in Foodfare having “no choice” but to invoke the pre-termination clause terms such as the forfeiture of the security deposit.

However, as a gesture of goodwill, Foodfare chose to allow the licensee to offset her operating arrears against her security deposit rather than enforce the terms of pre-termination.

The spokesperson added that Foodfare is currently in the midst of concluding the licensee’s outstanding finances and her dispute of the S$3,500 penalty.

Top photo from Alex Chan Facebook

 

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