Calls for boycott with #NoTimmiesTuesday,
Shops boycotted for reaction of some Ontario franchisees to bump in minimum wage
VANCOUVER— Niki Lundquist loves the Earl Grey tea at Tim Hortons so much it has become a running joke in her Toronto office.
“No one has ever seen me without a Tim Hortons cup in my hand,” said the in-house trade union counsel.
But now she’s one of many people boycotting the coffee-and-doughnut chain until some Ontario franchisees and their corporate parent, Restaurant Brands International, come up with a different solution to offset the province’s minimum wage hike than clawing back employee benefits.
A social-media movement encouraged people to join “No Timmies Tuesday” on Jan. 9 and instead visit independent coffee shops.
The protest came after some Ontario Tim Hortons franchisees eliminated paid breaks, fully covered health and dental plans and other perks for their workers to help their businesses absorb the 20-per-cent jump from an $11.60 hourly minimum wage to $14 at the start of the month. Those changes came to light after a letter from the owners of two Cobourg, Ont., franchisees circulated on social media.
Since then, concerned consumers have taken to social media and encouraged others to #BoycottTimHortons to put pressure on the chain to reverse the changes. However, the company and its franchisees are blaming each other for the decision, a blowout that could turn a local story with a small protest into a national tale and public relations disaster.
After seeing the letter, Lundquist went into her usual Tim Hortons in Whitby, Ont., to ask whether they made similar cutbacks. She said she decided to stop frequenting it after an employee reluctantly told her they were no longer paid for breaks. Employees at the other three Tim Hortons on her commute into work told her they were instructed not to speak about it, she said, so she inferred similar changes were afoot and gave up her Tim Hortons teas.
Alan Harris decided to stop his near daily prework Tims visit in Windsor, Ont., in a gesture of solidarity.
“I can deeply understand what it means to live paycheque to paycheque,” he said. Harris wants the boycott to put pressure on the corporation and franchisees to reintroduce the scaled-back benefits.
But who should take responsibility for that is at the heart of the latest round of finger-pointing in an ongoing blame game between some franchisees and their corporate parent. Tim Hortons says 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.
The Great White North Franchisee Association, which represents half of Canadian Tim Hortons franchisees, has said it hoped RBI would lower supply costs, reduce couponing or raise prices. When it did not, the association said, many franchisees were “left no alternative but to implement cost-saving measures in order to survive.”
Tim Hortons fired back, saying such cuts “do not reflect the values of our brand, the views of our company, or the views of the overwhelming majority” of restaurant owners. The chain called the cuts reckless and unacceptable, adding staff “should never be used to further an agenda or be treated as just an ‘expense.’”
Tim Hortons and the association have declined interview requests, and did not immediately respond to questions about the boycott.