End "Social Enterprise Hawker Centers" NOW!

1: To preserve and promote hawker culture and provide affordable food for the masses, the government has set up what it calls "social enterprise hawker centers"

 

2: The textbook definition of "social enterprise" means that either these businesses are non-profit in nature and are set up to provide an affordable service to the lower income, or that profits earned through these enterprises are channeled to help worthy causes in other ways. In the case of the "social enterprise hawker centers", they are supposed to provide affordable food for low income people

 

3: Despite this laudable objective however, the operators of these so-called "social enterprise hawker centers" seem to operate them in a less than socially conscious manner. For example, it is understandable if NTUC Foodfare, which operates the Rice Garden chain of "social enterprise" economy rice stalls, don't provide cooked fresh or frozen fish in their $2/- meals for the needy as fish is costly.

There is no reason why they cannot provide canned sardines for this purpose. For those who support NTUC Foodfare in this, remember that sambal ikan bilis or fried ikan bilis and peanuts are also fish dishes. There is also no good reason why the person who wants canned sardines for his rice cannot buy sardines, rice and one vegetable dish instead of the mandated one meat, two vegetables and rice combination

 

4: The treatment that the hawkers receive at these "social enterprise hawker centers" also leaves much to be desired. For example, apparently they are forced to subscribe to cashless payment. This would be fine if the operators disburse cash payments to the hawkers every day since hawkers need large amounts of loose cash to pay their suppliers every day.

However, the experiences of hawkers at a NTUC Foodfare operated SEHC said otherwise. For 5 months, the hawkers went unpaid because NTUC Foodfare could not determine how much each hawker should be paid as the system does not determine input from each individual stall. Clearly, the IMDA's "Smart Nation" project staff aren't smart enough to come up with a more sensible system where NTUC Foodfare's cut of the profits will be automatically deducted from the hawker's total daily earnings with the balance being kept in the hawkers' own accounts so that they can withdraw cash whenever they need it. The hawkers had absolutely nothing to do with the incompetently designed cashlesd payment system; still, in the end, the hawkers themselves are the ones who have to suffer a lack of income for 5 months through no fault of their own, not the IMDA people who caused the problem

 

5: There are other ways in which these hawkers are unfairly treated. For example, they have to pay for centralized dishwashing. Why can they pay someone to wash dishes for them if they find it cheaper to do so?

On this matter, Jurong West Hawker Center has been in the news lately for the unfair demand imposed on the hawkers that they must pay their customers 20 cents for each tray they return. Since the hawkers do not collect a 20 cent deposit for the use of the tray, this means that the hawkers are paying the customers out of their own pockets for this. It is true that Hawker Management, the Koufu subsidiary that operates their "SEHCs" has agreed to allow the hawkers to charge a deposit for the trays. Still, the hawkers had lost as much as $900/- a month because of this unfair policy

Another point on this matter. Hawker Management has contracted GreatSolutions, owned by Koufu boss Pang Lim's brother Pang Pok, to provide dishwashing services for JWHC for a hefty $64,000/- a month. Isn't this a conflict of interest situation? Would Hawker Management terminate GreatSolutions as a contractor should they fail to meet standards, or would the hawkers be blamed instead? It is strange that Law Minister K. Shanmugam, who once denounced the AHTC's appointment of FMSS Pte Ltd as "taking money from the public and putting it into the hands of their friends", is now maintaining silence over this matter

 

6: Hawkers are people too. They too have their families to support, which means that they too need to earn income. And yet these SEHCs appear to exploit them instead. For example, apparently a hawker who closes his stall down I'm JWHC due to unprofitability, will STILL have to pay for rental and other services until another hawker takes it over. Why should a hawker who is actually serving high quality food at decent prices but who cannot make ends meet due to Hawker Management's greedy self-servicing policies be penalized for the failures brought on by these policies?

 

7: Due to all the above reasons, we are calling on the National Environmental Agency to carry out the following:

i: Abolish all these so-called "social enterprise hawker centers" with immediate effect as they are run in a manner detrimental to the welfare of the hawkers

ii: The NEA should run these hawker centers themselves along the lines of the old hawker center model

iii: The NEA should also allow the hawkers to opt out of the cashless payment system as it creates cashflow problems for them

iv: Hawkers should also be allowed to employ their own dishwashers instead of being forced to subscribe to centralized washing if they find it more affordable to do so

v: The NEA should also make Hawker Management or GreatSolutions reimburse the hawkers $900/- per month for every month they had to pay diners to return trays out of their own pockets. After all, it is the "social enterprise hawker center" operators who are running the social enterprise of providing the low income with affordable food and NOT the hawkers selling the food themselves

vi: Finally, to keep food costs affordable, the NEA should charge stall rental well below market rates if the government still wants to run hawker centers as social enterprises

 

8: Until the above 6 points are implemented in full, we are calling upon everyone to show solidarity with the hawkers by boycotting these "social enterprise hawker centers". Hit these greedy operators where it hurts them most: their pockets. Show them that we are not blind and can see that they are actually exploiting the hawkers while trying to give themselves a good name by running so-called social enterprises

 

9: Please help to circulate this petition if you truly care about the survival of our hawkers and hawker centers and want to see them fairly treated and not exploited

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