Tough times continue for Grawood staff

Bar manager quits, employees seek mental health support

Jennifer Nowoselski’s last day on the job was January 17. She resigned from her position as the Dalhousie Student Union’s director of operations, which was announced at the Jan. 15 DSU council meeting.  

Nowoselski’s sudden departure leaves the Grawood campus bar facing issues, should a member of Nova Scotia Alcohol and Gaming stop by, and potential financial troubles come tax season. For its employees, this means stress.  

“The fact that’s scary to me is that, we had a group of people who, generally, beforehand were doing OK with their mental health,” Grawood employee Maddie Stinson said. “Now [they] very much so are not, and there’s no common denominator between all of us, other than the fact that we work for the DSU.” 

Stinson says Grawood employees were notified of Nowoselski’s resignation a few days after she had given her two-week’s notice, in an email from DSU President Aisha Abawajy. Yet, at the Jan. 15 council meeting, multiple DSU council members said they weren’t aware of it until Stinson brought it up. 

Implications with Nova Scotia Alcohol and Gaming 

At the meeting, Stinson raised concerns about the Grawood’s standing with Nova Scotia Alcohol and Gaming. She said the Grawood could face consequences for continuing to serve alcohol without a manager in place.  

“If they were to find out that we didn’t have oversight, so a senior manager who was responsible for controlling the consumption of alcohol, they would not be happy. They would not be happy at all,” she said in an interview.  

According to the Nova Scotia Liquor Control Act, a change in manager must be approved, and the licensee may appoint an acting manager for their licensed premises, for no longer than 30 days without the approval of the executive director of Nova Scotia Alcohol and Gaming.  

At the time of writing this article, it has been 17 days since the resignation. It is unclear whether the DSU have filled the position, as they did not respond to a request for comment. 

Currently, the acting managers are DSU President Aisha Abawajy and the director of research and outreach, Tanisi Pooran.  

After the announcement, Stinson said she reached out to Abawajy for clarification on how Grawood employees should proceed. The questions she asked referred to running day to day financials, ensuring the relationship with the liquor designate and Nova Scotia Alcohol and Gambling would be maintained, and who was going to be responsible for ensuring occupational health and safety. 

Stinson said Abawajy’s response violated her “right to know” under the Canadian Occupational Health and Safety legislation, by informing her that since she is not an assistant manager, she would not be able to answer those questions.  

“Essentially what it means is that regardless of who I am, who any of our employees are, if they have questions about the safety of their workplace, their employer is responsible to answer those and to allow them to be part of that discussion,” said Stinson.  

She says there was no ill-will behind Abawajy’s response, but that the DSU executive simply aren’t prepared for these types of situations. “The DSU President is my employer. They run the union, which employs me. And I do feel that it’s kind of important that the person in that position has management experience,” said Stinson. 

Financial Implications  

The Grawood had been experiencing financial issues prior to Nowoselski’s resignation, which Stinson said had a negative influence on many of the employee’s mental health.  

“Tips hadn’t been done for the entire period from June to October. When I had to go upstairs to see Jen and say: I know you’re busy, I know this sucks to add something to your plate, but we have staff members who are worried that they can’t pay their rent because you owe them hundreds and hundreds of dollars,” said Stinson.  

After October, tips were being distributed more regularly, but not consistently, according to Stinson.   

As for the current financial situation, at the Jan. 15 DSU council meeting, Stinson said that regular procedures, ensuring that money at the Grawood was being accounted for,  have not been done for the past seven months. In response, Abawajy said the DSU’s accounting team would be able to sort that out before tax season begins.  

When asked about specifics of the current financial issues in an interview, Stinson said she could not speak on confidential financial information, but said, “as a business management student, audit season is not going to be easy for the DSU.”  

The state of Grawood employees  

“Everything we thought could never happen has already happened. So if someone came down next week, and was like, ‘hey guys pack it up, go home, you’re now all unemployed.’ We’d be like, ‘you know what, all right,’” said Stinson.  

The staff are currently working with Dalhousie administration to have someone come and do a mental health workshop with employees, which the DSU executive has offered to help with, according to Stinson. She said she invited them to provide any help they could, but not to be intimately involved with the workshop.  

“It wouldn’t be productive to have the executive there because for a lot of our staff, their actions are the root of some of their stress,” says Stinson.  

“We’re very close knit. So we’re working through it,” said Stinson, “but we were kind of just hoping for a smooth ride out until May.” 

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