Sunday 21 October 2012

Cleaning fee hike to be staggered at 6 hawker centres from October 2012

By Grace Chua & Walter Sim, The Straits Times, 19 Oct 2012

AT SIX of the nine hawker centres where cleaning fees were set to rise sharply earlier this month, the increase will now be staggered and take full effect only next year.

Stallholders will pay half of the planned increase per month from October to next January, and thereafter, the full increase until May when the cleaning contract is up for renewal.

For example, at Holland Village Market and Food Centre, fees were originally set to go up to $615 from $240 a month. Now, stallholders will pay about $427 a month until January.

A National Environment Agency (NEA) spokesman said the new cleaning charges reflect current market conditions for best-sourced contracts.

Hawkers at nine centres were told last month about the increased amount they would have to pay as a result of higher wages for cleaners and training costs by accredited cleaning contractors.

NEA engages cleaners for tables, floors and other common areas for the 25 hawker centres owned by the Ministry of the Environment and Water Resources. The cleaners also collect used plates and utensils, but washing is left to individual stallowners.

The spokesman added: "Going forward, to help manage the cleaning costs, the industry will have to look at productivity measures and everyone, including stallholders and patrons, will have a part to play to help keep our hawker centres clean."

The move drove hawkers at Holland Village, Tanglin Halt and Commonwealth Crescent to meet their MPs to voice their concerns. At Tanglin Halt, owners of all its 28 stalls also signed a petition asking the NEA to reconsider the new rates.

Now, the staggered fee increase will apply at six food centres: Holland Village, Newton, Commonwealth Crescent, Maxwell, Adam and Tanglin Halt.

At the other three centres - Geylang Serai, Market Street and Amoy Street - the absolute increase was smaller, so stallholders have been paying the new charges in full from the start of this month, the NEA said.

Stallholders The Straits Times spoke to said the staggered increase was a slight reprieve as it allowed them to cushion the blow of an immediate hike. But they remain concerned over several issues.

Holland Village drinks stall owner Michael Shee, 64, said it was "a bit frightening" that there was no guarantee fees will not rise further when the contracts are renewed.

Likewise, Mr Michael Ameerali, 50, who runs a wanton mee stall in Tanglin Halt, said that a price hike may be inevitable. He said: "We are stuck in between. While we are concerned about the old folk in our estate, we also need to make ends meet."

More blunt in his assessment was Mr Patrick Tan, 72, chairman of the Tanglin Halt Shopkeepers and Hawkers Friendly Association, who said "it is not worth spending $600 a month unless service standards improve. Most of our cleaners don't do a good job".

Mr Glen Choi, 38, who opened a Japanese food stall at Commonwealth Crescent last month, said the increase came as a shock. He added: "Think about the auntie selling you zha gui (deep-fried dough sticks) who does not even use plates and yet is made to pay such a hefty cost."

No comments:

Post a Comment