Every industry is going through a tough time because of the pandemic. Not just the food, entertainment and tourism sectors, city-based salons and spas too have taken a hit once again due to the ‘indefinite ban’ in the wake of the second wave. On April 30, the West Bengal government announced that beauty parlours and spas will remain closed with immediate effect till further notice. The announcement left thousands of employees, who work in the beauty and wellness sector, sigh in despair. CT spoke to a few of them to find out their side of the story. Read on…
Uncertainties on the work bother employees
Lee Kim Wong, who works at a beauty parlour, feels that the negative impacts of the pandemic have always been more pronounced in the beauty and wellness sector. “Last year, when the parlours reopened post the lockdown , there were hardly any footfalls, as people were scared to visit a closed space. Also, we have to touch the clients for treatments like facials, massage, threading, waxing, manicure and pedicure. Our customers wanted to avoid that. It took them a long time to overcome the fear. And before we knew, the second wave hit us. How will we survive? As it is our employers are not being able to recover the losses incurred last year. We were thankful that last year our owner didn’t retrench any of the employees and paid our salaries despite the losses. But this year, how will they bear the cost? Just when the business was picking up, the government made this announcement. I really don’t know whether this time I will be able to retain my job,” rued Lee.
Anxious customers not ready to spend at salons
Ever since the pandemic hit us, common people have become too anxious. Insecurities over job losses and salary cuts have forced them to spend less on non-essential stuff. Most people have totally stopped visiting salons and spas. Arpita Goswami, a beautician at a city salon, said, “For the past one year, we are struggling to survive this pandemic. Previously, people were wary of coming to the parlours. It was only recently that they were starting to visit us, but now we are back to square one. I don’t understand why are parlours and spas being targeted? What about the open markets, then? At parlours, we maintain all COVID protocols, yet we are the ones who suffer. This uncertainty is killing us. We don’t know whether our employer will be able to retain our jobs when there’s no income. However, we don’t blame our employer for that. We have been asked to shut down for an indefinite period and that is unacceptable.”
Echoing Arpita’s sentiments, Vikas Das, who works as a hairstylist, said, “People like us are facing the worst time of our career. This time, I had no option but to come back to my village and search for odd jobs on the farming fields to make ends meet. Last year, despite the losses, our owner paid our salaries. But how can they do that now, as they are yet to make up for last year’s losses? I am at my wit's end. How will I run my family?”
Last nail in the coffin for workers
According to those working for the beauty and wellness industry, the latest ban has proved to be the last nail in the coffin. Krishno Paul, who works at a city salon and spa, said, “A restaurant can somehow survive with home deliveries in the given situation, but what about parlours? People like me, who work at salons and spas, are having sleepless nights. We don’t have other career alternatives to survive. Despite maintaining all the COVID norms, why is it that our industry has to suffer this indefinite ban? As it is getting clients back to the salons was a big issue post last year’s lockdown. How do we survive now? Our future is in total darkness, as we don’t know whether our owner will be able to run the salon or shut down for good.”