NTUC Foodfare denies allegations that worker appealed against long hours before his death

A Foodfare coffeeshop at Jurong West on Feb 24, 2016.
A Foodfare coffeeshop at Jurong West on Feb 24, 2016.PHOTO: LIANHE WANBAO

SINGAPORE - NTUC Foodfare has denied a report that a stall owner who died of heart failure - allegedly after working 18-hour days - had appealed to the social enterprise to have his hours shortened.

An elderly hawker who owned two stalls at Changi Airport's Terminal 4 food court died after falling ill on Feb 19 this year. His name has only been given by the company as Mr Fong.

On Monday (Nov 19), socio-political website Independent.sg published a story claiming it had been informed by a reader that Mr Fong had been working the long hours to avoid being fined by his employers, after having an appeal to shorten his working time rejected.

The report also said he had been warned that he would be fined $500 for each day he closed, which led to him running the stalls alone from 5am to 11pm each day.

However, in a Facebook post on Tuesday (Nov 20), NTUC Foodfare responded by calling the report "inaccurate and misleading", saying it had put together "several untruths".

In a media statement, it said: "We will like to clarify that we have never received any request or appeal from the owner of stalls 6 and 7 to shorten operating hours."

It added that screenshots of e-mails in the article, which Independent.sg said were between the hawker's daughter and the food court's management, were "not e-mails in correspondence with the owner of stalls 6 and 7".

The company said it waived the contract pre-termination penalty for Mr Fong's two stalls, due to his sudden passing.

"We have been in contact with Mr Fong's son and he is aware that we are processing the refund of the security deposit, sales proceeds and return of equipment," NTUC Foodfare added.

NTUC Foodfare said it understands from Mr Fong's son that the family did not contact any online media outlet.

Monday's Independent.sg article was shared more than 4,600 times.

It came as Senior Parliamentary Secretary for Trade and Industry, Dr Tan Wu Meng, said the same day that the Competition and Consumer Commission of Singapore (CCCS) has been notified of a proposed acquisition of Kopitiam and its subsidiaries by NTUC Enterprise, which oversees NTUC Foodfare.

He was responding to questions about the takeover from Ms Lee Bee Wah (Nee Soon GRC) and Non-Constituency MP, Mr Dennis Tan.

Dr Tan said that the CCCS is assessing the transaction.

"NTUC Enterprise has committed not to proceed with the merger until CCCS has issued its decision," he added.