THE outcry by Tampines North residents over standards of cleanliness in their housing estates has led labour chief Lim Swee Say to take issue with the way town councils award contracts.

He said their complaints proved the labour movement's tenet of emphasising quality over cost.

If town council cleaning contracts are awarded to the lowest bidder rather than the best, 'nobody wins', he argued on Tuesday at a National Trades Union Congress (NTUC) event on how to help low-wage workers.

Mr Lim brought up the case of the sloppy cleaners to defend the NTUC's approach to improving the lot of low-wage workers, which emphasises cooperation and negotiation with employers.

'In case you have any doubt, the simple truth is this: That particular zone did not award the cleaning contract on the basis of best-sourcing,' he said, referring to the practice of hiring contractors who can provide high-quality - not the cheapest - service.

'This tells us that our message on best-sourcing will be rewarded. Those with the bad habit of cheap-sourcing will be penalised.'

'It's about quality, not cost'