Dirty dishes pile up at Albert Food Centre amid cut in cleaning staff after diners made to return their own trays

Dirty dishes pile up at Albert Food Centre amid cut in cleaning staff after diners made to return their own trays

SINGAPORE — The Albert Food Centre has been facing issues with cleanliness as dirty dishes pile up, with cleaning staff struggling to cope with the load, especially during peak hours.

This problem was highlighted by a Facebook post by a netizen, Kong Mala at Facebook group, “Complaint Singapore”, who posted a series of photos of dirty dishes stacked up at the tray collection area of the hawker centre at Queens Street on 10 March.

In the Facebook post, the netizen wrote, “Sad situation! 1st world country with 3rd world Hawker Centre and people.”

Tracy Tham JiaWei also commented, “Cleaners are now lazy & behave like as if they are tray supervisors. Expect us to return tray & yet don’t bother to come & wipe tables.”

She added, “Expect us to return tray & yet don’t bother to come & wipe tables. So now where tray return stations are full of course we will just place it at the nearest table.”

LiCai Helen shared that it happened also in the Tekka hawker centre where shelves and tables are filled with plates, but no cleaners are around.

Leong HC noted the same is seen at Hong Lim Hawker Centre, “tray return stations packed till trays are placed onto the floor and nearby tables. Understand hawkers are still paying for the managing company for the utensils collection. Wonder why no enforcement on these companies?”

Stephen Chua also commented that the Albert Food Centre is one of the dirtiest and smelliest hawker centres. He added that although there are a few good stalls there, he is not in the mood to sit down and eat.

TOC notes that this has been happening for a few months with its citizen journalists taking photos of the mess. Citizens, such as Kong Mala have been posting photos of the situation online too.

Photo taken on 21 February 2023

The Albert Food Centre is managed by the National Environmental Agency (NEA), which introduced the mandatory tray returning policy as of 1 June 2021.

Those who do not return their used utensils would receive a written warning for the first time. Second-time offenders will face a composition fine of S$300, while subsequent offenders may face court fines.

The NEA is responsible for maintaining the cleanliness and hygiene of hawker centres in Singapore under its management.

Shin Min Daily News quoted a cleaner who said, “There is a shortage of staff arising from the resignation of our supervisor.” A 65-year-old drinks stall owner at the hawker centre also told the Chinese media outlet that the problem has been going on for several months.

She added, “Our peak hour here is lunch, and when the cleaners are unable to handle (the dishes), we will have to collect the trays on our own accord. Sometimes, we also have to clean the trays ourselves.”

Zeng, a stall owner who spoke to Lianhe Zaobao, added that many of the newly hired cleaners are unfamiliar with the stalls and that they are relatively slow when it comes to cleaning the dishes.

Zeng also said that many stall owners are worried about the sanitation of the hawker center.

Zhang, another stall owner, was also quoted by Lianhe Zaobao as saying that ever since diners were required to return their own trays, the total number of cleaners hired by the food centre has been reduced.

Zhang added that in the past, two cleaners used to be responsible for one area within the hawker center, but this has since been reduced to one cleaner per area.

Meanwhile, the chairman of the Hawker Committee for Albert Food Centre was quoted by Shin Min Daily News as saying that the authorities had reached out about the cleaning issues for the hawker center.

The NEA has yet to issue a statement on the issue.

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