‘It’s our sta that really drives this business’
Ontario businesses show solidarity with employees as picketers line up in front of Tim Hortons
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.