SINGAPORE - Labour chief Lim Swee Say yesterday called on Singaporeans to make cleaners' jobs easier by smiling, saying "thank you" and not littering.
The sector is the first to be recognised under the labour movement's new "Appreciating U" scheme, which will be extended to security officers, landscape technicians, nurses, mature staff and migrant workers.
Some 115 cleaners from the Bishan-Toa Payoh area were served a buffet lunch by Mr Lim and other union leaders yesterday at an event at the HDB Hub Mall.
Mr Lim, who is the secretary-general of the National Trades Union Congress (NTUC), said better training can improve cleaners' lives: "If we find ways to upgrade their skills and equip them with the right type of technology, we can help them be more productive and make their job easier."
But for members of the public, "the best thing we can do for our cleaners is to stop littering and learn how to appreciate what they do, say 'thank you' to them".
Town council cleaner Mohamed Buang Ali, 57, who has worked in Toa Payoh for five years, was one of 26 who received certificates of recognition at the event.
Mr Buang said he is thanked two or three times a week by residents, who have become more familiar with him over time.
They sometimes ask for his help to move big items like tables and sofas from their units to the ground floor to be disposed of.
"I feel proud because we can help each other," he said, adding that some residents have recommended him for promotions. His pay has risen from $850 to $1,700 a month over the five years.
So far, more than 200 organisations here have pledged this year to show their 10,000 cleaners they matter, such as through meals and movie screenings.
This is up from the 150 who did so last year, NTUC said. Mr Lim also touched on quarterly labour figures released last week, which showed that unemployment here was at 2 per cent last quarter while vacancies were at an eight-year high.
"In terms of quantity of jobs there is enough to go around, in terms of quality of jobs it has been getting better through our economic restructuring," he said.
But he added that the high job vacancy numbers suggest "we still have a lot of work to do to move towards reducing our labour requirement".
This article was first published on June 17, 2014.
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