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todayonline - 9 days ago

Stallholders at social enterprise hawker centres to get greater flexibility in contracts

SINGAPORE — From next year, stallholders at social enterprise hawker centres will have greater flexibility in how long they wish to open their stalls, and will no longer have to worry about unreasonable termination clauses. On Friday (Nov 9), the National Environment Agency (NEA) said in a news release that after discussions, the five social enterprise entities operating 13 hawker centres have agreed to make changes to some of the hawkers’ contractual terms with effect from Jan 1 next year. Fei Siong Food Management, NTUC Foodfare, Timbre Group, Hawker Management under Koufu, and OTHM under Kopitiam will have to allow stallholders in their centres to operate at least five days a week, with the option to operate for more days a week or more than eight hours daily if they wish to. Stallholders could also terminate their tenancies early by giving no more than two months’ notice. If so, they will not have to forfeit their security deposit or pay rent of more than two months in lieu. These and other changes come three weeks after the authorities embarked on a review of the social enterprise hawker centre model. It had come under fire and increasing scrutiny in the recent months, following complaints from hawkers on unreasonable contractual terms. Earlier this year, it emerged that stallholders at Our Tampines Hub had to open for 24 hours a day, while stallholders in all social enterprise hawker centres have to operate at least six days a week. Observers such as food critic and consultant K F Seetoh, as well as some hawkers operating in these centres, had also raised concerns over high auxiliary costs, such as for dishwashing and tabletop-cleaning services. Currently, 13 out of 114 hawker centres across the island are managed by five social enterprise entities. Seven of the centres were built within the last decade. Besides making contractual changes, all the operators have also formed hawkers’ feedback groups in the hawker centres they manage, with at least one feedback session conducted in each of the seven new hawker centres. Reiterating that new hawker centres need time to establish themselves and build up a new clientele, an NEA spokesperson said: “Hawkers would benefit from more flexibility in the way they operate their stalls than today, even as we experiment with new management models, and seek new and better ways to sustain the hawker trade.” On Friday, on the sidelines of a visit to Ci Yuan Hawker Centre (managed by Fei Siong), Senior Minister of State for Environment and Water Resources Amy Khor said the authorities are also looking into additional operating costs borne by hawkers. CHANGES AT A GLANCE 1. Operating hours From next year, stallholders may operate at least five days a week, and can continue operating for more days if they wish to. Operators will also give stallholders options on their operating hours, and operators and hawkers are encouraged to work together to schedule their off-days. For hawkers who wish to open their stalls more than eight hours a day, operators will engage them on how they plan to do that and check if they have sufficient manpower. 2. Termination clauses Stallholders can terminate their tenancies if they give their operators sufficient notice, which should be no more than two months. Stallholders who give sufficient notice will not have forfeit their security deposit, which should not be more than two months’ rent. Unless there is breach of tenancy agreement or damage to stall premises, the operator cannot ask tenants who gave sufficient notice to terminate their tenancies to pay rent of more than two months or to pay rent until a replacement stallholder is found, 3. Liquidated damages Operators may impose liquidated damages for regulatory or other breaches — no more than S$50 for minor ones and S$100 for major ones. 4. Legal fees Operators will bear all legal fees that stallholders could incur arising from the preparation and execution of the agreements with stallholders, except any stamp duty payable by stallholders. Operators should “strive to keep business and administrative costs reasonable for hawkers”, the NEA added.

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