Indian cleaners could be lowest paid workers in the world

7th of November 2012
Indian cleaners could be lowest paid workers in the world

Two female cleaners in India believe they should be in the Guinness Book of World Records for earning the lowest salary in the world.

For more than 40 years they have worked hard scrubbing and cleaning toilets in southern India. But Akku and Leela Sherigar have only 80 euros to show for their four decades of labour. They have earned an average of 2.5 euros a year, and for the last 11 years they have worked for free following a dispute with their employer.

The two women, both aged 59, started working as toilet cleaners for the Government's Women Teacher's Training Institute, in South India, in 1971, for 15 Rupees (22 cents) a month as 18-year-olds. But they've not had a pay rise ever since, even though they have never missed a day's work.

Akku said: "We were promised a pay rise every year but it never came. We trusted our employers that eventually they would pay us. We never believed it would come to this.

"We take pride in our work - we couldn't give it up. We have always hoped that we would get what we were promised."

In 2001, they finally had enough and complained to the Karnataka Administrative Tribunal, in Udupi, near Goa, in southwest India. Then their wages stopped altogether with no mention of any reimbursement.

But the dedicated women still went into work cleaning 21 toilets, three times a day, seven days a week.

The government has been ordered to pay the woman what they are owed, but they are yet to do so. With the help of the Indian press and local support Akku and Leela are now praying they'll get what they're deserved, plus interest, before they can happily retire next year.


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