Foodcourt cleaner yelled at by woman plans to quit

Cleaner Png Lye Heng says he has been working at the Jem foodcourt for a year and does not find the work difficult. He intends to continue to work in this line despite the recent incident when he got yelled at.
Cleaner Png Lye Heng says he has been working at the Jem foodcourt for a year and does not find the work difficult. He intends to continue to work in this line despite the recent incident when he got yelled at. PHOTO: LIANHE ZAOBAO

Deaf and mute man says he is 'slightly hurt' by the scolding but has forgiven the woman

A cleaner who was yelled at by a woman in a foodcourt in an incident that has caught the public eye has said that he will quit his job.

Mr Png Lye Heng, 64, who is deaf and mute, told reporters yesterday in an interview, conducted through written questions and gestures, that he plans to quit his job at the Jem foodcourt this month as a result of the incident.

Mr Png said he was "slightly hurt" by the scolding but had forgiven the woman.

He said he has been working at the foodcourt for about a year, and does not find the work difficult and enjoys it. He will continue to work in this line, he said.

In the incident last Friday, a woman, who was identified by The New Paper as Ms Alice Fong, had shouted at Mr Png for clearing her food before she had finished her meal.

 
 

A video of what happened after, posted by Facebook user Euphemia Lee, showed the woman lashing out at a manager of the company providing cleaning services to the foodcourt. It went viral over the weekend.

She can be heard berating the 51-year-old manager: "If he's (the cleaner) deaf, ask him don't work, go home and sleep. That's for the Government to feed him, go and be a beggar! I don't care, he took my food!"

The video generated wide criticism of the woman's behaviour online, with many calling it shameful and disgraceful.

The manager captured in the film, who wanted to be known only as Steven, told The Straits Times that he had heard from Mr Png's colleagues that the latter intended to quit this month. Mr Png had not informed him of this yet, he said.

He confirmed that Mr Png had been working at the foodcourt for about one year.

Since the incident went public, Mr Png has been pointed at by some customers in the foodcourt, said Steven.

"Besides the reporters, even strangers have been pointing at him. It's not easy to have the public talking about you," he said.

He said the incident surprised him and that it was the first time he had encountered something like this. In the past, cleaners had accidentally cleared customers' food before they wanted them cleared, but such incidents were "settled on the spot", he said.

In Friday's incident, Steven said he apologised and offered to pay for Ms Fong's meal but she rejected his offer and continued remonstrating.

In an interview with Shin Min Daily News published on Sunday, Ms Fong said her remarks were uttered in anger, adding that she told Mr Png's supervisor it was "nothing personal" and she was simply "unhappy that he took my food away".

She said she was not the only party at fault in the incident, calling on Mr Png to wear a tag "so customers know that he is deaf and mute".

"I'm not a bad or evil person," she said, adding that she was having a flu and not feeling well that day.

Yesterday, in the interview at the Jem foodcourt just before he was due to knock off at 5pm, Mr Png told reporters that Ms Fong had taken a gift to his elder brother's house on Sunday.

Steven said Ms Fong called him on Sunday to apologise. He accepted her apology.

He said he had asked Mr Png before the incident if he wanted to wear a badge indicating his disability but Mr Png had refused.

Mr Png was the only deaf and mute staff member at the food court, said Steven, adding that the firm does not discriminate against people who are deaf and mute but assesses them based on their performance. The firm will continue to hire such workers, he said.

Steven said he is able to communicate in a basic way with Mr Png but another colleague is much better at communicating with him.

He said Mr Png was hard-working and patient with foodcourt customers. "Even after the incident, he still reports (to work) on time," he said.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 07, 2016, with the headline 'Foodcourt cleaner yelled at by woman plans to quit'. Print Edition | Subscribe