MP Lim Biow Chuan Says Old Airport Road Hawkers Don’t Have To Open For “Super Long Hours”

Much has been said about the Old Airport Road Hawker Centre (OARHC) Saga that has erupted in recent days.

In its latest instalment, Mr Lim Jialiang wrote a Facebook post refuting some comments made by Member of Parliament (MP) Lim Biow Chuan.

You can read the post in full here. Otherwise, we summarise it after the jump.

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1. 8-hour minimum working hour

According to Mr Lim’s post, NTUC Foodfare requires OARHC hawkers to be open for a minimum of 8 hours a day.

Mr Lim felt that this wasn’t fair to some hawkers who spend hours prepping even before they open for service.

For instance, noodle store hawkers typically spend between 4-6 hours preparing their stock.

The time spent making the necessary preparation is not counted towards the hawkers’ operating hours.

Mr Lim added that many of these hawkers are in their twilight years, and may find it difficult to work for such long hours.

Foodfare also mandates that hawkers under their management have to notify them a week in advance should they want to take a day off.

Mr Lim felt that this takes away autonomy and choice from the hawkers.

The above claims were backed by snippets of a contract, believed to be signed by OARHC hawkers.

NTUC Foodfare later clarified with MS News that the contract attached does not apply to majority of the hawkers at OARHC.

Only two hawkers, who joined after 1 Jul 2017, are subjected to these conditions.

Additionally, NTUC Foodfare revealed that they have yet to receive feedback from the 2 affected hawkers.

An NTUC Foodfare spokesperson also explained that these conditions were introduced to promote a vibrant food centre catering 3 meals a day to diners.

2. Empty hawker centres in the evening

Mr Lim felt that forcing hawkers to operate for at least 8 hours a day doesn’t solve the problem of hawker centres emptying out during dinnertime.

Instead, he felt that the phenomenon occurs due to other unrelated factors:

  • More consumers are choosing to cook their dinner at home
  • New integrated malls increasing the number of dining options
  • Prevalence of delivery apps
  • Change in consumer tastes

Mr Lim also felt that the government’s choice to stop building hawker centres between 2010 and 2012 may also have a part to play.

3. Hawkers will not be punished?

Mr Lim was also doubtful of MP Lim’s assertion that hawkers will not be punished in the event that they break any of the stipulated clauses.

He went on by saying if that was truly the case, the clauses should not exist in the first place.

What did Mr Lim Biow Chuan say?

Here’s the original statement made by MP Lim Biow Chuan that led to Jialiang’s post.

MP Lim also happens to be the MP of Mountbatten SMC where OARHC is located.

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This is a quick summary of his post:

  • At 10:30pm, MP Lim paid a visit to OARHC and found that most stores were already closed.
  • He spoke to 4 hawkers who claimed Foodfare did not require them to stay open for “super long hours”.
  • The hawkers claimed that there were no rules for them to “report their movement or face punishment”.
  • MP Lim explained that Foodfare wanted to ensure the hawker centre was not empty in the evening.
  • According to him, this is common sight in other hawker centres.

The viral post that started it all

MP Lim later clarified that his post was in response to a viral Facebook post by netizen Gary Ho.

The post was largely based on the experience of a hawker based in OARHC.

We’ve summarised the salient points in his argument here.

NTUC Foodfare’s official response to the matter is included in the article as well.

Let’s hope this gets resolved soon

Regardless of what happens, we hope the parties involved find a resolution to the entire saga soon.

After all, OARHC is undoubtedly one of the best hawker gems in Singapore and it would be a waste to see hawkers move out as a result of disagreements with their management.

Featured image from Google Maps.