Tuesday 25 June 2013

NEA-AHPETC dispute 2013: Bedok Market cleaning starts

All areas of Block 511 to be spruced up over 5 days, says WP-run town council
By Andrea Ong, The Straits Times, 24 Jun 2013

THE Workers' Party-run town council has agreed to a request from hawkers at a Bedok North market to clean all areas - including the ceiling - over five days starting today.

This is a change from a previous decision of the Aljunied-Hougang-Punggol East Town Council (AHPETC) to clean the lower areas of the Block 511 Bedok North Street 3 market over three days, and clean high areas only next month.

"It is now agreed that (the) market will close for five days as past practice to facilitate high area cleaning to coincide with spring cleaning," said WP and AHPETC chairman Sylvia Lim yesterday in an e-mail to The Straits Times.

She said the town council acceded to the request by the Block 511 hawker association after further discussions, following a June 6 meeting between AHPETC, the National Environment Agency (NEA) and hawkers from two markets.

At that meeting, according to NEA and the hawkers, it was decided that the town council would spring-clean the lower areas of the markets at Block 511 and Block 630 in Bedok Reservoir within a month.

AHPETC would then clean the high areas on another occasion.

That brought to a close one thread of a long-running dispute, which flared after hawkers from two Bedok North markets said they were asked by AHPETC or its cleaning contractor to pay extra for the cleaning of high areas.

NEA backed the hawkers' claims, but AHPETC denied repeatedly that the hawkers were asked to pay more.

As part of a series of exchanges with NEA, AHPETC released a tentative schedule for the annual top-to-bottom cleaning of the five hawker centres in Aljunied GRC under its charge.

Block 511 was scheduled to be cleaned in November.

A day later, NEA issued a statement calling on AHPETC not to delay the annual cleaning of Block 511 as the major clean-up was due on June 24, and could not be postponed.

The issue appeared to be resolved at the June 6 meeting, but the NEA, WP leaders and Environment and Water Resources Minister Vivian Balakrishnan continued to trade barbs for another week.

Yesterday, Ms Lim confirmed that AHPETC would provide the necessary scaffolding and equipment for the high-rise cleaning at Block 511 without extra cost to the hawkers.

The town council's notice on the market closure and high-area cleaning was sent to hawkers last Friday, she added.

Hawker association secretary Chan Kheng Heng said most of the hawkers would rather close shop for five days for a thorough cleaning, than close for three days and have the high areas cleaned at another time.

They felt that the latter option would be more disruptive to business, he said.

"We feel that five days is better. The cleaning gets done, we come back, we can start working on our business," said the 55-year-old.

He added that AHPETC representatives had come down to speak to hawkers and look at the layout of the market a number of times, including last week.

As for Block 630, its lower areas will be spring-cleaned this week while AHPETC intends to clean its high areas in October.

"But we have said we will consider bringing it forward if warranted, after discussions with stakeholders," said Ms Lim, adding that details would be firmed up soon.

Asked about the town council's plans amid the ongoing haze, she said the cleaning is still scheduled to begin today but it would "assess if modification is required, depending on the haze level".

Last week, AHPETC said its contingency plans for the haze included giving out masks to staff and stopping all outdoor work when the PSI exceeds 400.

Aljunied town council starts market cleaning
Hawkers, residents hope long-running dispute over cleaning will now end
By Andrea Ong, The Straits Times, 25 Jun 2013

CLEANING of two Aljunied GRC hawker centres by the Workers' Party (WP) town council began yesterday, with hawkers and residents hoping this would finally end a long-running dispute on the issue.

By 8.30am yesterday, an army of workers from the Aljunied-Hougang-Punggol East Town Council (AHPETC) and its contractor ATL Maintenance had descended on Block 511 in Bedok North Street 3, which will remain closed until Friday to be cleaned from floor to ceiling. Hawkers there had been notified last Friday that the town council was acceding to their request to clean all areas, including the ceiling, over five days.

That was a change from AHPETC's previous decision to clean the lower areas of Block 511 over three days this week and the high areas only next month.

Yesterday, workers were busy removing tables and chairs from the Block 511 hawker centre to make way for hydraulic platforms used to clean the ceiling. Canvas sheets were also erected around the hawker centre and wet market to keep dirt from escaping.

The area was mostly deserted, with many hawkers using the chance to go on holiday, according to the lone stallholder at the market yesterday. The 62-year-old, who wanted to be known only as Mr Tay, said he still has to work as he supplies frozen meat regularly to coffee shops. Mr Tay and a few residents who gathered to watch the cleaning noted that the method used this year was different from the past. Previously, the contractor would wheel around a scaffold to clean the ceiling and the market would just be encircled by plastic cordon tape.

Over at Block 630 in Bedok Reservoir Road, the cleaning that started yesterday was on a smaller scale. The market will remain closed today for spring-cleaning of its lower areas. Its high areas are scheduled to be cleaned in October but AHPETC chairman Sylvia Lim has said the town council would consider bringing the date forward.

The clean-up comes in the wake of a dispute which flared after hawkers from Block 511 and another Bedok North market said they were asked by AHPETC or ATL to pay extra for the cleaning of high areas. The National Environment Agency backed the hawkers' claims but AHPETC has denied repeatedly that the hawkers were asked to pay more.

Yesterday, hawkers and residents said they wanted to move on from the issue.

"I'm satisfied as long as the place is cleaned," said housewife Heng Pong Kiaw, 63, who lives near Block 511.

Food centres at Bedok cleaned, ending NEA-AHPETC dispute
By Sharon See, Channel NewsAsia, 29 Jun 2013

Stall holders at two food centres in Bedok are satisfied with their surroundings, now that the higher areas have been cleaned, putting to an end to the dispute between the National Environment Agency (NEA) and the Aljunied-Hougang-Punggol East Town Council (AHPETC).

Cleaning works started on Monday for the food centre at Block 511, Bedok North Street 3, as well as Block 630, Bedok Reservoir Road, and were completed by Friday.

Block 511 was cleaned from 24-28 June and Block 630 was cleaned from 24-26 June.

The two food centres were at the centre of a war of words between the NEA and AHPETC over cleaning arrangements for the high areas such as ceiling pipes.

Channel NewsAsia understands that for Block 630, only the lower areas were cleaned, as the cleaning schedule for the high areas is slated for October.

The town council said the date may be brought forward.

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