Yesterday, two articles were published in local online publication The Independent, alleging NTUC Foodfare’s unfair practices.
One of the articles, titled “Elderly hawker allegedly passed away after working 18-hour days to avoid hefty fine when NTUC Foodfare rejected appeal to shorten operating hours”, alleged that NTUC Foodfare has rejected a hawker’s request to close the stall during the first two days of Chinese New Year, if not there would be a fine of $500 for each day he closes. Without manpower, the elderly kept the stall open and unfortunately, he passed on the next day.
The article includes email screenshots that look legit at first glance.
The other article, titled “NTUC Foodfare slaps $3500 fine on elderly and injured tenant who was unable to operate for a few days”, alleged that in the same foodcourt, an elderly was on MC for 60 days and wanted to close down, but was fined $3,500.
NTUC Foodfare has since come in to explain, calling the articles “inaccurate” and “misleading”.
NTUC Foodfare’s Response
In a Facebook post, NTUC Foodfare listed down what happened.
Simply put, here’s their response.
“Elderly hawker allegedly passed away after working 18-hour days to avoid hefty fine when NTUC Foodfare rejected appeal to shorten operating hours”
- On 19 February 2018, NTUC Foodfare’s outlet manager had noticed that Mr Fong, the stall owner of stalls 6 and 7 was looking unwell and had persuaded Mr Fong to seek medical help while his staff attended to the stalls. Unfortunately, Mr Fong passed away later that evening due to heart failure.
- NTUC Foodfare rendered their assistance to Mr Fong’s family during the difficult time due to his sudden passing.
- NTUC Foodfare waived the contract pre-termination penalty for stalls 6 and 7.
- NTUC Foodfare has been in contact with Mr Fong’s son and he is aware that NTUC Foodfare is processing the refund of the security deposit, sales proceeds and return of equipment for the stalls.
- Mr Fong’s family members did not get in touch with any online media, nor did they tip off any media.
- The screenshots of emails shown in the article also were not emails in correspondence with the owner of stalls 6 and 7 (read on because the emails were real but from another stall)
“NTUC Foodfare slaps $3500 fine on elderly and injured tenant who was unable to operate for a few days”
- NTUC Foodfare has waived the liquidated damage per the terms set in the leasing agreement during the first occasion when the stall owner filed a notification for stall closure as her father, who was the cook at her stall, was unable to operate the stall with her due to work injury.
- During the second time when the stall was closed for 2 days, NTUC Foodfare only imposed a small token fine as part of the full penalty because they empathized with the stall owner’s situation.
- NTUC Foodfare is required to operate a certain stipulated operating hour as per the main contract with the landlord, which is Changi Airport Group. Therefore, it is clearly stated in NTUC Foodfare’s contracts with stall owners as it is an obligation which they must adhere to with the landlord.
- On the licensee’s (i.e. stall owner) request to open her stall slightly later due to personal reasons on two dates, NTUC Foodfare had lent their support to the licensee and negotiated with the landlord on her behalf.
- On 10th June 2018, the licensee wrote in to request to pre-terminate her lease. And later, she requested to transfer the stall ownership to another licensee – To which NTUC Foodfare agreed and facilitated her with the transfer.
- During the time when NTUC Foodfare was facilitating her with the transfer, the licensee closed the stall for another 7 days as her father was experiencing pain in his leg and informed the outlet manager that she would open her stall after her father’s medical leave. However, she did not do as she’d communicated.
- As such, according to the leasing agreement, this invoked the pre-termination clause.
- Amidst the unauthorized closure, NTUC Foodfare had appealed to her to open her stall within 3 days and had considered offering her a waiver of the penalty charge of $3,500. However, the licensee still failed to reopen her stall within the 3 days.
- NTUC Foodfare then had no choice but to invoke contractual pre-termination terms such as forfeiture of security deposit among others.
- As a gesture of goodwill, NTUC Foodfare did not exercise the pre-termination terms but had allowed the licensee to offset her operating arrears against the balance security deposit.
- Currently, NTUC Foodfare is in the midst of concluding the outstanding financials of the stall and dispute of the $3,500 penalty.
So, what’s with the email screenshots for the first article, since the hawker has not made any official request?
Basically, the email screenshots were from the second article and for some reason, included in the first article.