Op­er­a­tors to tweak ‘oner­ous’ con­tract terms for hawk­ers

So­cial en­ter­prise hawker cen­tres will of­fer oper­a­tional and ten­ancy flex­i­bil­ity to pro­tect in­ter­ests of hawk­ers

The Straits Times - - TOPOF THE NEWS - Ch­eryl Teh

Sev­eral “oner­ous” con­trac­tual terms will have to be tweaked by op­er­a­tors of so­cial en­ter­prise hawker cen­tres (SEHCs) to pro­tect the in­ter­ests of hawk­ers.

Af­ter get­ting feed­back from hawk­ers, pa­trons and op­er­a­tors, the Na­tional En­vi­ron­ment Agency (NEA) yes­ter­day said stalls at th­ese seven cen­tres can choose to open five days a week, in­stead of the six which some so­cial op­er­a­tors re­quire.

And if hawk­ers choose to open longer than eight hours, op­er­a­tors will need to en­gage them to find how they plan to do so, and if they have suf­fi­cient man­power.

Hawk­ers will also not be “locked” into their ten­ancy agree­ments. In­stead, they can keep their se­cu­rity de­posits – capped at two months’ rent – if they de­cide to give up their stalls, as long as they give no­tice, which should not be more than two months. The changes, which also in­clude caps to fines for con­tract breaches and re­moval of le­gal fees for ten­ancy agree­ments, will kick in from next year.

Speak­ing to re­porters yes­ter­day at Ci Yuan Hawker Cen­tre, Se­nior Min­is­ter of State for the En­vi­ron­ment and Wa­ter Re­sources Amy Khor said that re­gard­less of the way hawker cen­tres are run, the ob­jec­tives re­main the same: to pro­vide af­ford­able food op­tions for res­i­dents, but at the same time en­sure that hawk­ers make a liveli­hood and get a fair deal.

Af­ter the re­cent scru­tiny over the way SEHCs are run, “we note that some of the terms (of the con­tract) may seem oner­ous. Some of the con­tracts have been repli­cated by SEHCs from other food es­tab­lish­ments, al­though they say they ex­er­cise some flex­i­bil­ity in prac­tice,” she added.

Seven out of 114 hawker cen­tres are cur­rently man­aged by pri­vate so­cial en­ter­prises and co­op­er­a­tives – Fei Siong So­cial En­ter­prise, NTUC Food­fare, Tim­bre+Hawk­ers, Hawker Man­age­ment by Koufu and OTMH by Ko­pi­tiam.

There had been com­plaints that some op­er­a­tors had based the way they run SEHCs on their ex­pe­ri­ence in run­ning pri­vate food­courts.

There have also been con­cerns over how much SEHC hawk­ers are charged for ser­vices such as tray re­turns and dish clean­ing.

Dr Khor, who also urged op­er­a­tors to find ways to in­crease foot­fall, such as free park­ing, lucky draw cam­paigns and fam­ily car­ni­vals, said the NEA will con­tinue to

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