Converting lady memberships to ordinary ones will push down value: Singapore Recreation Club women members

Lady memberships were historically worth more on the open market than ordinary memberships because of their scarcity. PHOTO: SINGAPORE RECREATION CLUB/FACEBOOK

SINGAPORE - The Singapore Recreation Club (SRC) is offering its women members the option to convert their lady memberships to the same ordinary membership as male members, which grants them equal voting rights and other privileges.

But women members are upset at the prospect, which they say has diluted the value of their lady memberships, historically worth more on the open market than ordinary memberships because of their scarcity.

Several told The Straits Times they felt they were given no choice in having to fork out the money for a conversion to an ordinary membership, and pay more monthly membership fees, even as they watch their memberships diminish.

Financial services manager Tang Whai Yih, 73, who has been a member of the club for 45 years, said: "There will be no market for the lady membership anymore in future, it will just be depreciating in value.

"Generally, lady memberships can get at least a 20 per cent premium compared with the ordinary membership. Why should we be penalised?"

According to members, lady memberships could fetch about $9,000 on the market in July before the club's announcement, while ordinary memberships were worth $8,000 to $8,500.

The SRC has about 4,000 ordinary male members and 777 women members with lady memberships. These will no longer be offered by the club, ST understands.

The move, which ordinary and corporate members voted on in April last year, aims to give women members the same rights and privileges as male members, such as being elected to the management committee.

Under old rules, women had no voting rights and could not have supplementary memberships for their spouse and children under 21.

The monthly subscription fee for women members is $50 before GST, while ordinary members pay $85.

Women members were on July 29 given the option to pay a $100 conversion fee until January next year, and receive $100 in food and beverage (F&B) credits as well as $35 monthly F&B credits for up to one year.

From February next year, the conversion fee will be $500, and will not come with subsidies in the form of credits. From August 2023, the fee will be $1,000.

SRC member Constance Tan, a business owner in her 60s, feels women have been ridden roughshod over. When the club voted to renew its lease at the Padang last December, women had to pay $2,500 - the same as male members - to fund the lease renewal.

"So, we should be treated on a par with them and the change to become an ordinary member should be without any conversion fee or increase in subscription fee," she said.

Last December, the SRC started a fund-raising drive to collect $2,500 from each member to defray a sum of $18.4 million to the Singapore Land Authority to renew its lease at the Padang till 2052. The rest came from its reserves.

It came after members voted down a proposal for lease renewal, which required members to pay a $6,700 levy each.  

Ms Tan bought her membership for $7,500 in 2018, when an ordinary membership went for $5,500 at the time, she said.

A spokesman for SRC said women members may continue to sell their memberships to other women. But the buyer would be required to pay the conversion fee to convert it into an ordinary membership.

The SRC has about 4,000 ordinary male members and 777 women members with lady memberships. PHOTO: BT FILE

SRC president Chang Yeh Hong said the conversion exercise is optional, and that women can choose to stay as lady members, but that the management committee wanted to rejuvenate the club's membership  

"If we keep antiquated rules without being relevant to attract the younger ladies who want a voice and voting in the club affairs, the old rules will prohibit the entry of new female members," he added.

In a survey the club sent out to women members last year, the majority of respondents disagreed with having equal rights as ordinary members, the conversion fee and the increase in subscription fee.

Madam Tang said 150 women have signed a petition to object to the conversion exercise as occurring without their consent.

She said: "It was the men who voted on this issue when we didn't ask for it, and we have to deal with the consequences."

As at Aug 12, 28 women had applied to convert to an ordinary membership.

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