NTUC Foodfare clarifies online article alleging $3500 fine on elderly and injured tenant and elderly hawker allegedly passed away from overwork to avoid hefty fines

Case 1:

report by The Independent on 19 November said that a stallholder at the NTUC Foodfare located at Changi Airport’s Terminall 4 was slapped with a hefty fine of $3,500 Singapore dollars because her elderly father (the one running the stall), was injured and could not find any staff to replace him. As such, the stallholder had to close the stall for a few days.

S1.png

The article said that according to the stallholder’s daughter, the elderly stallholder was unable to find manpower to run the stall. He had to work two shifts a day to avoid paying a penalty, and they eventually had to close the stall for a week because his injury was too serious. Wah, jin jialat. 

It said that despite writing to the foodcourt operator to seek their understanding on their plight, their reasons for closing the stall were rejected and they were still slapped with a $3,500 fine for not complying with NTUC’s Foodfare’s regulations. The fine was deducted from a $22,600 deposit. And that despite writing to the General Manager of the Retail division of NTUC Foodfare, the fine was still imposed, and it was deducted form their deposit without any authorisation from the family.

The email exchanges between the stallholder’s daughter and NTUC Foodfare was also published on The Independent.

S2.png

The Independent said that NTUC Foodfare responded and said that they 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. Ouch. 

S3.png

However, another media reported the next day that NTUC Foodfare had replied to their queries on The Independent’s article.

According to NTUC Foodfare, the report said that the stallholder had written in in June this year asking to terminate the lease earlier, and had requested to transfer the stall to another tenant. NTUC agreed and helped to facilitate the transfer. In the midst of the transfer, the stallholder’s daughter had to close the stall for seven days as her father experienced pain in his leg, and that she will open the stall after her father’s medical leave. However, she did not do so and this breached the pre-termination clause.
NTUC Foodfare also appealed to the stallholder’s daughter that they will consider waiving the $3,500 fine imposed for the unauthorised closure if she opened the stall within 3 days. But the stall did not do so. As such, they had no choice but to forfeit the security deposit. The operator also did not exercise the pre-termination terms, but allowed the stallholder to use the security deposit to offset her operating arrears.

So why insist that stallholders have to operate for a certain number of hours?

According to the report, NTUC Foodfare said that it is an obligation that NTUC had to adhere to based on the contract with the landlord. Thus, the operating hours were also indicated in the contract between NTUC Foodfare and the stallholders.

Case 2: 
NTUC Foodfare also clarified to another article by The Independent (“Elderly hawker allegedly passed away after working 18-hour days to avoid hefty fine when NTUC Foodfare rejected appeal to shorten operating hours“). The article claimed that an elderly hawker operated 2 food stalls, also at the food court in Changi Airport Terminal 4. He had applied to NTUC to shorten his operating hours for the first two days of Chinese New Year when some of his staff returned to their home country for the holidays.

However, the appeal was rejected and he would have to pay a $500 penalty for each day the stall is closed. To avoid the penalties, the elderly hawker decided to run the stall himself from 5am to 11pm daily. However, media reports cited NTUC Foodfare’s response that they have never received any request or appeal from the owners of the stalls 6 and 7 to shorten operating hours. Oops, kelong leh. 

The operator also said that they have waived the contract pre-termination penalty for the elderly hawker’s two stall due to his sudden passing, and have been in contact with the stallholder’s son to process the refund of the security deposit. It also understands that the family did not contact any online media outlet.

What’s next?

NTUC has since issued a letter of demand to The Independent Singapore to take down the ‘inaccurate’ articles.

However, The Independent Singapore has struck a defiant tone – they responded with an article stating that they will hold the line, and that they will continue to champion the rights of hawkers, workers and the downtrodden.

Robin hood esque.
S4.jpg
What happens next bears watching, given the recent action taken against other online alternative sites.

But if indeed it is found that The Independent Singapore had indeed published inaccurate information, I do hope that they have the good sense to remove the articles.

Why let it ruin the good work they’ve done over the years?