Faced with higher minimum wage, Tim Hortons owners make it hurt

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Tim Hortons — the Canadian coffee shop — is now the face of the debate over a higher minimum wage now that the children of the founder have taken Ontario’s increase in the minimum wage out on employees.

To make up for the $2.40 an hour hit that they’re taking, franchisees Ron Joyce Jr. and his wife Jeri-Lynn Horton-Joyce will no longer pay for work breaks for employees at their restaurants and the workers will now have to pay 75 percent of the cost of providing health care benefits, the CBC reported.

The owners also canceled a perk that rewarded employees with a day off with pay if they didn’t call in sick over six months. The bonus for working on a birthday has also been eliminated.

The CBC says initially the action affected only a couple of franchises owned by the couple (one the son of the co-founder, the other the daughter of Tim Horton). But since the story broke, other Tim Hortons have jumped on the bandwagon. CBC News has learned franchises in Thunder Bay, Windsor and St. Thomas, Ont., as well as other locations, have all informed employees about changes implemented in the wake of the minimum wage increase.

The employees at those restaurants will also have to pay for their uniforms now.

The free drink the workers were given at the end of their shift? That perk is gone now, too.

And a franchisee in Scarborough, Ont., said her employees will no longer be allowed to accept tips. If they get them, they have to be turned over to her.

The politician who spearheaded the higher minimum wage, Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne, called the franchise owners bullies.

If Mr. Joyce wants to pick a fight, I urge him to pick it with me and not those working the pickup window and service counter of his stores.

Tim Hortons is a Canadian institution. It’s a ritual before Saturday morning hockey and a daily habit many of us enjoy. But I know I want the person who hands me a tea or coffee in the morning to be able to pay their bills, raise his or her kids and enjoy the full benefits of life in Ontario. Again, I think that’s just fair — and I know many people across this province agree.

Because at its core, the minimum wage debate is about what kind of society we want to live in. I look to the south, where middle class children lost health care coverage in the same bill that cut taxes for the richest of the rich, and I know it’s the wrong path. That’s not who we are as a province, and it’s not who we are as a country.

Raising the minimum wage is not a radical act. It’s just fair.

The corporate parent initially brushed off the changes, saying it’s up to the franchise owners to establish their employment practices.

Today, it issued a stronger statement, the CBC says.

“There are several things that make the Tim Hortons brand truly unique, like our connection to our communities and the great relationship our restaurant owners and their team members have with our guests.

“It saddens all of us to see that jeopardized by the recent news stories and comments on social media, caused by the actions of a reckless few.”

Meanwhile, the brand is getting slaughtered on social media.