NEA asks for tray return ambassador job listings to be taken down

The listings drew flak online this past week. ST PHOTO: YONG LI XUAN

SINGAPORE - The National Environment Agency (NEA) has asked that several job listings advertising for "tray return ambassadors" at hawker centres be removed, as no contract for these roles has been awarded yet.

This comes after cleaning and recruitment firms put up calls for the job, offering salaries of over $2,000.

Typically, government agencies put out a tender and award a contract to a company that then hires people to carry out such work.

"We would like to clarify that those listings were made by companies of their own accord, without having secured any contract with NEA. Hence, we have reached out to those companies, and requested that they take down their unsolicited listings," said the NEA in response to queries from The Straits Times.

As of June 1, it is mandatory for diners to return trays and clear table litter.

A listing by Greensafe International, a consulting company for environmental services, was posted on jobs portal My Careers Future on June 14, offering a salary of $1,400 to $2,200 monthly for the job of tray return ambassador.

The role requires the ambassadors to "engage and encourage patrons, stall holders and cleaners" to return their trays after dining, alongside planning promotional activities and conducting sharing sessions with the community. It said applicants must be physically fit and able to stand for long hours.

An older listing for a similar role was posted on the same portal by recruitment company People Advantage in June last year, offering a salary of $2,000 to $2,500 monthly. In that case, a contract had already been awarded.

The listings drew flak online this past week, as the old listing also resurfaced, with netizens asking why the salary offered to an ambassador was higher than that of a cleaner in a hawker centre.

The base salary for a cleaner is currently $1,274.

The NEA told ST that it routinely sources ambassadors for a broad range of roles, to ensure and maintain the safety and cleanliness of hawker centres, and that this practice was in place even before the Covid-19 pandemic.

However, it was "stepped up recently due to the pandemic situation".

"NEA does not stipulate the salary range when putting out such tenders. The appointed vendor will be responsible for the recruitment and deployment of the ambassadors, including administration of their salaries and other related costs and benefits."

Ambassadors at hawker centres have a broader range of roles than cleaners, such as ensuring safe distancing measures are observed, encouraging and reminding diners to return their used crockery and cutlery after meals, and helping to ensure clean tables and safe hawker centres, said the NEA. They may also be required to work at more than one location.

The NEA urged diners to share in the responsibility of maintaining the cleanliness of public dining spaces, especially during the pandemic.

"We urge everyone to work with our ambassadors to take greater ownership of our common public dining places, so as to help maintain high hygiene and cleanliness standards. This will allow us to... better safeguard ourselves against any public health threats," it said.

In May, the NEA announced that from Sept 1, diners who do not return their trays after their meals will be issued warnings and fines.

First-time offenders will be given a written warning. Second-time offenders will face a $300 composition fine, and subsequent offences may lead to court fines, which can go up to $2,000 on a first conviction.

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