Madam Sally Chan, 70, used to be able to iron only 40 pieces of clothing a day at the laundry company she works for.

It was tiring work and required her to stay on her feet for hours.

Today, she can iron 500 pieces without breaking a sweat. She just needs to hang the wet clothes onto a conveyor and a machine does the rest.

This was made possible after her employer, Systematic Laundry and Uniform Services, invested in a new steam tunnel.

This and other new investments totalling more than $500,000 have transformed the work environment for the firm's workers, raising productivity and enabling it to retain its mature workers.

About 30 per cent of its 95 workers are above the age of 50.

The company, a subsidiary of Laundry Network, also saw an improvement in its sales revenue of 30 per cent, and an increase in its production capacity of 20 per cent.

The company's many initiatives were recognised by the National Trades Union Congress (NTUC) yesterday with a May Day Model Partnership Award.

Acting Manpower Minister Tan Chuan-Jin and labour chief Lim Swee Say both attended the awards ceremony which was held to pay tribute to workers and employers who are good examples for others in the upgrading of the skills of workers and improvement of the workforce's adaptability and resilience.

One of the key award categories was for commitment to the progressive wage model, a model proposed by the labour movement last year to raise the salaries of low-wage workers gradually by upgrading their skills and restructuring the job.

The laundry firm embarked on its changes under the Silver Productivity Programme last year, receiving funding from the Employment and Employability Institute (e2i).

Laundry Network chief executive Chan Tai Pang, 67, said he hopes to change the perception of the laundry industry as hot and tiring work, and wants to attract more mature workers to the industry.

The company also provides jobs for the unemployed through the community development council (CDC) and is next planning to provide a home and job for some 20 to 30 people who may need it, together with the CDC and Jurong Shipyard.

Apart from Laundry Network, there were 103 other award winners.

Among the others was Mr Chittoo Suppiah, 54, who was commended for continuing to learn and upgrade his skills to become a key operating theatre technician last year, after starting out as a health-care attendant at Singapore General Hospital 34 years ago.

Mr Chittu's supervisor, Ms Low Kiat Luan, a nurse clinician at SGH, said: "He was nominated for this award because he is a role model for other workers and is committed to upgrading himself. He loves his work in the operating theatre."