Labour Unions Protest Against Tim Hortons’ Reaction To New Minimum Wage
Above Photo: Premier of Ontario Kathleen Wynne speaks in Toronto, on Dec. 12, in a file photo. REUTERS/Mark Blinch/File
TORONTO (CP) — Protesters rallied outside Tim Hortons locations across Ontario Wednesday to show support for employees after some franchisees made benefits and break cuts after a minimum wage increase — but many gatherers stopped short of committing to a boycott.
Some, but not all, of the chain’s franchisees have said employees will have to cover a larger share of their dental and health-care benefits as well as take unpaid breaks in order to offset the added costs of the province’s hourly minimum wage rate increase to $14 an hour on Jan. 1.
But labour groups who gathered outside stores in cities including Toronto, Ottawa and Coburg, Ont. Wednesday describe the company as “wildly profitable” and argue Tim Hortons and its parent company can afford to pay employees at the new rate without taking away previous perks.
Joshua Bowman, a University of Toronto student who rallied at the Tim Hortons location down the street from the university, called the actions of franchisees who targeted workers “deplorable,” but said he would not forgo his daily coffee runs at the chain because he figured the lost business would hurt employees more.
“I haven’t decided to boycott because these wages go to the workers and to putting people like me through university because minimum-wage jobs are the ones largely available to students,” he said.
Bowman gripped a sign reading “Shame on Timmies for not sharing” and chanted “Hold the sugar, hold the cream, Tim Hortons don’t be mean” with at least three dozen other activists, as a steady stream of customers filtered into the Tim Hortons.
Organizers said they hope such rallies will send a message to Tim Hortons and its parent company, Restaurant Brands International. The parent company has denounced the actions of some franchisees, who have said they have been left with no choice because RBI, which controls product pricing, has not committed to a price hike.
“Head office has the means to ensure that these reprisals against workers are reversed, and we are calling on them to do so immediately,” said Pam Frache, Ontario co-ordinator of a campaign for higher minimum wage dubbed Fight for $15 and Fairness. “And we are not going to stop, actually, until they make this happen. We need to make it right for these employees.”
The rallies come a day after a social media campaign sprang up encouraging people to boycott Tim Hortons in order to show solidarity with the workers.
The campaign urged patrons to take part in “No Timmies Tuesday” on Jan. 9 and instead visit independent coffee shops.
RBI and franchisees have publicly sparred over alleged mismanagement and filed several lawsuits against each other in recent months.
Tim Hortons has said individual franchisees are responsible for setting employee wages and benefits, while complying with applicable laws. But some franchisees argue the corporation, which controls prices, should help owners grappling with the mandated wage hike.
The Great White North Franchisee Association, which represents half of Canadian Tim Hortons franchisees, said the minimum wage hike and other changes to the province’s labour laws will cost the average franchisee $243,889 a year.