TORONTO — Tim Hortons franchisees who planned to offset the Ontario government’s minimum wage hike by cutting paid breaks and forcing workers to cover some of the costs for dental and health benefits faced a roasting Friday.
After days of public and government outrage stemming from policies introduced by Ron Joyce Jr. and Jeri Horton-Joyce, the children of the company’s billionaire co-founders, at the two Tim Hortons locations they own in Cobourg, Ont., the coffee chain’s Canadian headquarters called such franchisees’ actions “reckless” and “completely unacceptable.”
A statement from Tim Hortons released on Friday said the cuts “do not reflect the values of our brand, the views of our company or the views of the overwhelming majority of our dedicated and hardworking Restaurant Owners” and that staff “should never be used to further an agenda or be treated as just an ‘expense.'”
The company didn’t elaborate on what it would do to help franchisees as they transition to paying workers at least $14, up from the previous minimum wage of $11.60 an hour. It will rise again to $15 in 2019.
However, it said, “While our Restaurant Owners, like all small business owners, have found this sudden transition challenging, we are committed to helping them work through these changes.”
It and parent company Restaurant Brands Inc. requested a mandatory conference call with all store owners on Friday afternoon, according to Great White North Franchisee Association, a group created last year to give voice to the concerns of some Tim Hortons franchisees.
The meeting comes on the heels of Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne lashing out on Thursday at the franchisees’ cuts.
Wynne called them “a clear act of bullying” and said if Joyce Jr. wants to challenge the Ontario government policy, he should come directly to her and not take it out on his workers.
This premier will speak for those whose voices have often not been heard. She will proceed with our efforts to ensure that all workers benefit from our thriving economy.
Her sentiments were echoed by Ontario’s Economic Development Minister Brad Duguid on Friday, when he urged business owners to respect their low-income workers.
“The decision on minimum wage has been made,” he said. “This premier will speak for those whose voices have often not been heard. She will proceed with our efforts to ensure that all workers benefit from our thriving economy. She will not be swayed by business owners, some of whom are very wealthy, to back away from her passion of caring for those who are less fortunate.”
Duguid said he believes most businesses “get it” when it comes to the province’s minimum wage plan, but urged those who have a quarrel with the government not to take it out on workers.
I think we’d be hard pressed when we compare what our workers make to make any kind of a case to suggest that they’re underpaid.
Asked if it was hypocritical for the government to take this position since the Liberals cut benefits to some civil servants in 2014 to save $1.2 billion over five years, Duguid said this is a different circumstance.
“As an employer the government has a responsibility to the taxpayers who pay the bills,” he said. “(And) to ensure that the wages we pay to our workers are fair both to taxpayers and to those workers. I think we’d be hard pressed when we compare what our workers make to make any kind of a case to suggest that they’re underpaid.”
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