Link to this page: https://www.socialistparty.org.uk/issue/1102/31376
A day in the life of a salon worker during the pandemic
In the face of worse working conditions and a cut in pay, we stood up collectively and won
A salon worker, Cardiff
I work in a salon in Cardiff. It was bad before the pandemic began, and some employers are using the crisis to either drag more work out of their staff for little to no more rewards, or to cut hours, cut pay, and to carry out redundancies.
Since we have returned to work, staff hours have been cut to part-time so that we can work in shifts of smaller teams to adhere to social-distancing measures. Of course, this comes with a cut in wages, with the lost hours being made up with the 80% flexible furlough, soon to be tapered to 70%, meaning a loss of 30% pay of already low wages for skilled workers.
The team were originally given longer appointments with no lunch breaks on nine-hour shifts, and were blackmailed into accepting these conditions by being told they could lose out on commission. Of course, in reality, there was clearly more of a concern of a loss in profits for the boss.
Standards of safety have also been skipped, with workers returning to shorter appointment times, and limited time to clean effectively in between appointments. Lunch breaks have now been reinstated. However, these are, and always have been, unpaid.
Our team are rightly concerned about safety, not only for ourselves but for our clients, family and friends, as local lockdowns continue, as well as the added pressure of wage concerns and long hours.
The outlook has changed among my team during the pandemic, though, as we have realised the power we have. When the UK went into lockdown in March, there were obvious concerns about what would happen with our wages. But collectively, we put pressure on our boss, by means of a Facebook post about wages on our staff page. Once one person commented about the concerns of pay, everyone followed, and our boss had no choice but to pay us the 20% of wages that we would have lost.
This victory gave us all a huge boost of confidence, and we are now all talking and openly sharing examples of bad practices for us as individuals and as a team. It won't be long before we have an organised and fully unionised workforce!
The pandemic and lockdown have highlighted poor conditions for all workers across the globe, and how bosses are putting profits before the needs and safety of their workers. How is it that the 1% of the super-rich have gained more from this pandemic than anyone else?
Why are the super-rich like Richard Branson, Jeff Bezos and Tim Martin either earning trillions or asking for government bailouts while not paying taxes, when workers are being sacked, given zero-hour contracts, not receiving 100% pay and being made to work in unsafe conditions?
Trade unions should demand that these big businesses open their books for inspection, and be taken into public ownership. In this rotten capitalist system, profits and the 1% are always looked after above everyone else. But, that is all they are 1%. Us, the workers, are the 99%, and united we have the power to build a world for the needs of the working class, and not the capitalist elite.
In The Socialist 23 September 2020:
Why I joined