‘It’s our sta that re­ally drives this busi­ness’

On­tario busi­nesses show sol­i­dar­ity with em­ploy­ees as pick­eters line up in front of Tim Hor­tons

StarMetro Toronto - - News -

While protests over pay and ben­e­fit claw­backs roar in front of Tim Hor­tons, some busi­nesses in On­tario are show­ing sol­i­dar­ity with em­ploy­ees — some sin­cere, and some wrought with saucy par­o­dies.

The let­ters are pop­ping up on so­cial me­dia and cus­tomers are pas­sion­ately pledg­ing their loy­alty and pa­tron­age in re­sponse.

Jeff Knoll, CEO of Film.ca Cin­e­mas — a 12-year-old in­de­pen­dent the­atre in Oakville — wrote a let­ter to his staff last week. The cinema shared the in­ter­nal memo pub­licly on Tues­day night after an em­ployee’s par­ent posted it on­line.

“There has been a lot of neg­a­tiv­ity around the new min­i­mum wage and some very neg­a­tive sto­ries about how one food ser­vice com­pany in par­tic­u­lar is try­ing to deal with the ex­tra cost at the ex­pense of their em­ploy­ees,” Knoll wrote on Jan. 5. “We want each of you to know that we do not re­sent hav­ing to pro­vide this in­crease as you are all ab­so­lutely worth it.”

Knoll pledged to try his best not to pass ex­tra costs off onto cus­tomers ei­ther.

Hundreds flooded the on­line post with shares and com­ments, pledg­ing their sup­port for the com­pany mov­ing for­ward.

Knoll ac­knowl­edged in an in­ter­view that when the min­i­mum wage an­nounce­ment was first made, “we were ini­tially ter­ri­fied.”

“We hadn’t quite done the math at that point,” he said. “After the sort of ini­tial shock sub­sided, I re­ally started to spend time an­a­lyz­ing our busi­ness.”

In Port Hope, Ont., a small coffee shop with long pews and brick walls — with a wooden coffee bar ris­ing up from the wooden floors — par­o­died the in­tro­duc­tion of the con­tro­ver­sial Tim Hor­tons let­ter in a note to their own staff.

“It is with no re­grets that we in­form you we will be rais­ing our prices by roughly 10% across all items ef­fec­tive im­me­di­ately,” Erin and Nick Clu­ley of Coffee Public, who also have a lo­ca­tion at Col­lege and Bay streets, wrote.

“We feel com­pelled to give ev­ery­one a $1.25/hour raise, also ef­fec­tive im­me­di­ately, and com­mit to con­tin­u­ing to pay our staff above min­i­mum wage … (we) will also con­tinue to work our asses off as well as roast­ing coffee, grow­ing veg­eta­bles, and bak­ing scratch-made pas­tries be­cause that’s what hard work is and we don’t ex­pect any­thing for free.”

The let­ter was shared on­line more than 1,500 times as of Wed­nes­day.

And be­hind the doors of other lo­cal busi­nesses, own­ers are re­as­sur­ing their em­ploy­ees faceto-face. At Coco Beauty Bar in Bloor West Vil­lage, co-owner Tim Hef­fer­nan also as­sured his em­ploy­ees that he and his part­ner sup­ported in the min­i­mum wage in­crease.

Hef­fer­nan — a re­tired teacher turned busi­ness owner — says he and his part­ner haven’t paid them­selves salar­ies in 12 months, but have al­ways be­lieved in pay­ing their staff a fair liv­ing wage.

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