Getting by on wages at supermarket

The damage to the market at Blk 493 Jurong West St 41.
The damage to the market at Blk 493 Jurong West St 41. ST PHOTO: SEAH KWANG PENG

Madam Teo Ai Yoke was working the midnight shift at a supermarket at Block 491, Jurong West Street 41 when she heard a commotion outside.

Rushing out, the 65-year-old's heart sank upon seeing the coffee shop and wet market at Block 493 in flames.

Her husband had run a stall at the wet market for the last 20 years, first as a florist and then selling imitation jewellery, before selling bags and slippers in the last few years. A year ago, she began tending to the stall on her own, from 8am to 2pm, after he fell ill with a pancreas infection.

For about six days a week, she also works nights as a store assistant at a Giant Express supermarket, earning about $6 per hour.

 

That day, as the fire raged on for hours, Madam Teo said she did not think of alerting her husband.

"I just couldn't believe my eyes," she said. "Besides, he was already in bed. What could he have done?"

She said her husband has been moody and quiet since he heard about the news the next day. The couple have been married for about four decades and have three children, aged between 30 and 40.

Although the affected stallholders have been offered an option to move to a temporary market in the next few months, Madam Teo is uncertain if she should take it up.

"For now, I will try my best to cope with the income from my store assistant job."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on October 23, 2016, with the headline 'Getting by on wages at supermarket'. Print Edition | Subscribe