May Day Awards 2018: Eugene Tay

Eugene Tay from California Laundry

May Day Awards 2018: Medal of Commendation – Conferred on senior management personnel who, besides promoting good industrial relations and initiating workers’ training and skills upgrading programmes, also supported the Labour Movement and its initiatives.

In a career spanning 26 years, Eugene Tay has learned the ins and outs of his family’s laundry business as he climbed the ranks. This experience has not only enabled him to head California Laundry – one of Singapore’s leading laundry companies – as its second-generation leader, but also develop a ‘workers first’ mindset that has earned him a reputation as a caring boss.

Developing Workers

Working together with NTUC’s e2i (Employment and Employability Institute), Eugene has tapped various initiatives to create better jobs for his workers. These include the Inclusive Growth Programme, Place and Train for Texcare Specialist, Professional Conversion Programme for PMETs (professionals, managers, executives and technicians) and the WorkPro Job Redesign Grant.

Eugene’s foresight, and the support of these progammes, have seen the company implement automation into the operations processes, improving operational productivity and simplifying the workflow. This has made the job easier for his older workers – who make up 70 per cent of the company’s local workforce – and enabled them to enjoy higher gross salaries.

Growing Through Adversity

“Adversity does not build character, it reveals it,” wrote the novelist James Lane Allen. This is something that Eugene has shown.

Despite business operations being disrupted by a fire in January 2016, his topmost concerns were for securing the livelihoods of his workers as the company downsized to remain relevant. It was during this difficult period that Eugene went the extra mile to work with fellow laundry businesses to find jobs for his workers.

As the company restored operations in a new location in September 2017, Eugene even purchased a minibus to provide shuttle services for his existing workers.

“We have been through many success and crisis through our 48 years of service. Even with technology, we couldn’t strive through these past years without our staff. They are the main assets in California Laundry  and we will continue to treasure them,” said Eugene.

Today, the new state-of-the-art facility in Jurong West has been enhanced with ventilation coolers to create a cooler, more comfortable environment for all workers. Designed by Eugene personally, the initiative has made the operations floor much cooler than many other laundry plants in Singapore.

His courage and passion to do well for workers does not stop there. Eugene is considering shortening the company’s 16-hour operations day to a maximum of 12 hours as a new model for the commercial laundry industry.

On receiving the Medal of Commendation during the May Day Awards 2018, Eugene said: “I was very surprised to receive the Medal of Commendation as I was just doing my part for my company and staff, and had never thought of receiving any award.”

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