TORONTO, ON. (NEWS 1130) – Protesters angered by some Ontario Tim Hortons franchisees who slashed workers’ benefits and breaks after the province raised its minimum wage plan to spread their rallies to other areas of the country.
About 50 demonstrations are planned in cities across the country on Friday, although at least 38 will be based in Ontario, including 18 planned in Toronto. As of Dec. 31, 2016, the number of Tim Hortons locations in Canada was 3,801.
Other cities involved in the protest include Vancouver and two other cities in BC, Calgary, Halifax, Saskatoon and Regina.
Organizers behind the protest campaign, dubbed Fight for $15 and Fairness, say the demonstrations planned at specific Tim Hortons franchises on Friday are not about the franchise owners themselves, but rather to pressure their parent company.
“If they’re feeling the crunch, they know like we do the answer has to come from corporate head office, not off the backs of employees making a minimum wage,” said spokeswoman Brittany Smith.
“This is about the multi-billion dollar corporation and its parent company, Restaurant Brands International, who have the means to protect workers, but aren’t doing it.”
Smith could not describe how specific franchises across the country were selected for the protests but said they were chosen by local members of the Fight for $15 and Fairness, which she said number 500,000.
Friday’s planned national protests follow similar demonstrations earlier this month at 16 Tim Hortons restaurants in Ontario, organized in response to a few franchises that clawed back workers benefits, paid breaks and other perks as a result of the minimum wage increase in Ontario from an $11.60 hourly rate to $14 at the start of the month.
The protests began after Jeri Horton-Joyce and Ron Joyce Jr., the children of the brand’s billionaire co-founders, rolled out the controversial measures at two Cobourg, Ont., locations they own.
Finger pointing between the company and franchisees over who bears responsibility for the cuts has intensified an ongoing public sparring over alleged mismanagement that has included several lawsuits filed 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 by allowing them to raise prices. The franchisees want a 10 per cent price hike across the board, according to a source.
The Great White North Franchisee Association, which represents half of Canadian Tim Hortons franchisees, has said Ontario’s minimum wage hike and other changes to the province’s labour laws will cost the average franchisee $243,889 a year.
Tim Hortons has said the employee benefit cutbacks made by some franchises in Ontario “do not reflect the values of our brand, the views of our company, or the views of the overwhelming majority” of restaurant owners.
Members of BC Federation of Labour to take part in protest in Vancouver
A protest in front of a Tim Hortons is planned for 5 p.m. Friday, at Commercial and 1st Avenue in Vancouver, and members of the BC Federation of Labour will be there.
Irene Lanzinger, president of the BC Fed, says the actions of Tim Hortons to pare back benefits shouldn’t deter the move to increase the minimum wage in our province.
“Just remember that some employers respond well, and some employers respond badly. We have to hope that the employers who respond badly are in the minority,” she says.
“JJ Bean, for example, went to $14 an hour here in BC when they went to $14 in Ontario. We applaud the good employers out there, but we have to talk to the public about supporting workers.”
She noes $14 an hour is still a pretty low wage, and she says the protest is designed to send a message to BC businesses that it’s not fair to penalize workers when governments do the right thing.
As for participating in a boycott against the popular chain, Lanzinger says for the time being the BC Fed is not entertaining the idea, because she says they don’t want to hurt workers.