Hairdressers are lobbying for a return to work as their financial losses mount during the coronavirus lockdown.
Beauty salons do not form part of the essential service list as per the national disaster regulations, but the industry — which by its nature involves fairly intimate contact — is hoping that will change.
And they have an ally in lawyer Carlo Viljoen, who told TimesLIVE that he had submitted court papers.
Viljoen is taking the matter on pro bono “for the hairdressers out there”.
Andrea-Lea Hendrick of Step Ahead Salon in Durbanville, Cape Town, said her business had been affected tremendously.
“We keep watching the news and hoping to hear something about us being permitted to work. But we have to wait for level 1. Where will we be by then?
“It’s very frustrating but what can we do? We just have to wait. We don’t know how we’re going to survive that long,” she said.
Hendrick and other industry colleagues took to the SA Hairdressers in Lockdown 2020 group Facebook page to vent their frustrations and demand being allowed to work.
Peter Matlala said beauty salons were safer and more hygienic than many businesses allowed to trade on level 4.
“Imagine taxis, malls, Gautrain and people working at the mines? Are they all not at risk? And when did they learn about sanitation, sterilising and disinfecting the surfaces? Hairdressers have been practising all the above, all we need is that thing to test the temperature,” he said.
Some users said they had had their businesses for years and had never suffered like now.
“[I] agree the government must allow us to open. I have had my beauty salon for 41 years, we cannot sustain not working,” said Janet Ryan.
Thousands signed an online petition launched by the Employer’s Organisation for Hairdressing, Cosmetology and Beauty on Saturday, asking government to reconsider its decision.
“The survival of our industry and the survival of those participating in it is at the mercy of the Covid-19 Commission Command Centre. Under strict hygiene and safety measures, our industry will be able to serve the public without compromising efforts in place to combat the spreading of and exposure to Covid-19,” reads its description.
The closure of beauty salons has taken a toll not only on hairdressers but their customers too — many of whom have taken to cutting and styling their own hair.
Aviwe Maxhele said she was tired of cutting her husband’s hair.
“I’ve had to cut his hair when lockdown began, which has been terrible. Now he needs another haircut but I can’t cut it the way he wants, I can only do bald. I need braids, I have to wear a wig for my virtual meetings, and it’s a mess,” said Maxhele.
Vittorio Russolillo, owner of 11 Style Bar salons across the Western Cape, said there is hardly opportunity to hike prices after lockdown.
“There will be plenty desperate hairdressers who would be willing to do people’s hair. Also, people don’t have money at the moment, so most won’t be doing fancy and expensive hairstyles.
“It’s a complete disaster because we have made zero turnover,” he said.
He said that every business — as long as people provide for their families through it — is essential.
“Anyone can defend why their business is essential. But at the end of the day it’s all about how an industry can successfully mitigate the risk of the disease spreading.
“People interact everywhere, malls and so forth. So the idea that hairdressers would not be chatting to clients is not achievable. Just like tellers at banks, hairdressers work with people. But we are well trained on hygiene, we already were doing the things we’re expected to do now,” Russolillo said. He said that most of his shops are in retail malls and, as a result, negotiating a rent holiday has been difficult.
“Some landlords have been understanding but others don’t have anything for us. It’s hard to negotiate because we don’t know how long this well take,” he added.
The BBC reported on Tuesday that some salons were reopening in parts of Europe but it was not business as usual.
“No waiting area, no magazines, no dry cuts, and face masks for both customer and hairdresser.
“The rules issued by the German ministries for economy and for social affairs also include 1.5m distance between customers and ideally no blow-dry. Gloves must be worn until a customer’s hair is washed [to remove any bacteria] but can be removed for the cut itself,” read the article.
Talking face to face was not allowed either.