Friday, 8 March 2013

NTUC Foodfare 'not just for union members'

By Janice Heng, The Straits Times, 7 Mar 2013

FAIRPRICE chief executive and Marine Parade GRC MP Seah Kian Peng launched a spirited defence of the labour movement's foodcourt chain yesterday, saying that it helps all Singaporeans, not just union members.

He was responding to Workers' Party MP Png Eng Huat (Hougang), who charged on Tuesday that NTUC Foodfare was "a members-only organisation" and that only union members could "enjoy special prices and value meals".

Yesterday, Mr Seah said Mr Png was casting aspersions on the social enterprise, which aims to keep food affordable for all.

NTUC Foodfare benchmarks its prices against similar locations and controls price increases, said Mr Seah. He noted that it held its prices down during recessions, such as in February 2011, when it did not follow many coffee shops and foodcourts in raising prices.

"While Foodfare is not immune to the business pressures of rising food, labour and rental costs, it did so in order that all Singaporeans, not just union members, can better cope with inflation."

Earlier in the day's debate, Mr Liang Eng Hwa (Holland-Bukit Timah GRC) also spoke up in defence of NTUC Foodfare, noting that its outlets were open to all members of the public, and that a coffee at the Marina Bay Financial Centre outlet costs just 90 cents.

"I'm not sure if you can find another public eating place at Marina Bay, air-con ambience, with coffee at 90 cents," he said.

A cup of coffee at a heartland coffee shop or foodcourt generally costs 80 cents to over a dollar.

Mr Seah gave further examples of affordable offerings - from a $1.80 breakfast set of two eggs, toast, and coffee or tea, to $2.80 chicken rice - for everyone, not just union members.

However, NTUC Foodfare does strive to do more for the needy, added Mr Seah, with discount schemes for those on Public Assistance as well as the elderly.

"So I wish to put this question to Mr Png - should not the poor and needy or those on the Public Assistance scheme be helped more?" he asked.

Mr Seah also clarified that NTUC Foodfare does not enjoy any subsidised rental at any of the premises that it occupies, contrary to what Mr Png suggested.


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