‘Hold the sugar, hold the cream, Tim Hortons don’t be mean,’ protesters chant

Protesters angry after some workers asked to take unpaid breaks to offset minimum wage raise

Protesters who rallied outside Tim Hortons locations across Ontario on Wednesday roasted some franchisees for slashing workers’ benefits and breaks in an effort to compensate for the province’s minimum wage hike, but many said their gripes would not derail their daily coffee runs.

Those who gathered said they were worried staff would be negatively impacted if they boycotted to spite the small handful of franchisees — not necessarily the 16 locations that were targeted — who demanded workers cover a larger share of their dental and health-care benefits and take unpaid breaks to offset the 20 per cent raise to $14 an hour.

“I haven’t decided to boycott because these wages go to the workers and to putting people like me through university because minimum-wage jobs are the ones largely available to students,” said Joshua Bowman, a University of Toronto student who protested at the Tim Hortons location down the street from his university.

Bowman gripped a sign reading “Shame on Timmies for not sharing” and chanted “Hold the sugar, hold the cream, Tim Hortons don’t be mean” with at least three dozen other activists as a steady stream of customers filtered inside. Similar scenes played out in other Ontario cities including Ottawa, London, Guelph and Peterborough.

Tim Hortons and its parent company Restaurant Brands International Inc. wouldn’t comment on the protests.

The rallies that ensnared its restaurants came a day after a social media campaign urged patrons to take part in “No Timmies Tuesday” on Jan. 9 and instead visit independent coffee shops.

Social media has since been rife with people declaring they’d head to mom-and-pop stores selling coffee, but it’s unclear how many are acting on their posted promise.

The Fight for $15 and Fairness organization and the Ontario Federation of Labour, who organized Wednesday’s protests said they were hoping their efforts would be enough to return benefits to workers, given that the company is “wildly profitable” and that CEO Daniel Schwartz earned $6.1 million in salary and other perks in 2016.

“Head office has the means to ensure that these reprisals against workers are reversed, and we are calling on them to do so immediately,” said Pam Frache, Ontario co-ordinator for the Fight for $15 and Fairness. “And we are not going to stop, actually, until they make this happen. We need to make it right for these employees.”

Among the cities where protesters were deployed was Cobourg, Ont., where much of the recent outrage has been centred after Jeri Horton-Joyce and Ron Joyce Jr., the children of the brand’s billionaire co-founders, rolled out the controversial measures at two locations they own.

Tiffany Balducci, a vice-president at CUPE Ontario, who rallied at the same location as Bowman and is also refusing to boycott Tim Hortons, said she was disappointed that they targeted workers because they have many other options that don’t involve staff.

“They can definitely talk to their parent group about possibly having to raise a few prices of things,” Balducci said. ”If that is not going to work, the profit margins are huge, they can find the money to support the workers through their parent company and their parent company can hold these franchisees accountable.”

The parent company has denounced the actions of some franchisees, who have said they have been left with no choice because RBI, which controls product pricing, has not committed to a price hike.

But according to one long-time Tim Hortons employee in London, Ont., who requested anonymity for fear of reprisal, cutting paid breaks and benefits are not new tactics either.

“Other stores have done it for quite a while now,” said the worker.

The owners of the restaurant where the employee works stopped paying for breaks around the time Ontario raised its minimum wage to $11.25 an hour on Oct. 1, 2015, the employee said. They recalled being brought in for a performance review, informed of the decision and asked to sign a document stating they agreed to the changes.

Several years ago, the owners also stopped covering benefits packages for employees who had worked at the company for more than a decade, they said. Now, no matter how many years an employee’s remained with the company, they now have to pay for half their benefits if they sign up for coverage, they said.

However, the worker said no changes have happened at that location as a result of the recent hike.

“I don’t think there’s anything else they can take away.”

— With files from Aleksandra Sagan and Michelle McQuigge

Tara Deschamps, The Canadian Press

Just Posted

UFV student art celebrated at Interpret festival

Event on April 26 features creative and performing arts

Sister of teen gunned down in 2014 aims to keep kids out of gangs

Jessica Sherman volunteers for KidsPlay Foundation in Abbotsford

VIDEO: ‘Alarm bells’ raised by footage allegedly from Abbotsford pig farm, SPCA says

PETA released video Wednesday showing dead and injured piglets next to nursing piglets

VIDEO: Horseshoe competition coming to Abbotsford

B.C. International Highwayman Open bringing close to 100 athletes to town in May

Judge questions joint submission for Chilliwack man who sexually assaulted girl

Crown, defence ordered to find case law to back up one-year sentencing for Andrew Mullaly

VIDEO: Driver in bizarre hit-and-run at B.C. car dealership turns herself in

Police believe alcohol was a factor in incident causing estimated $15,000 in damages

B.C., Ottawa talk 50/50 split on abandoned bus-route service

B.C. has paid $2 million on a bus service for the northern part of the province

VIDEO: Vanouver Giants come back to earn 4-3 overtime victory

Playing in Spokane for the second consecutive night, the G-Men triumph put them 3-1 in the playoffs

‘B.C. cannot wait for action’: Top doctor urges province to decriminalize illicit drugs

Dr. Bonnie Henry says current approach in ‘war on drugs’ has criminalized and stigmatized drug users

B.C. woman, 76, challenges alcohol-screening laws after failing to give breath sample

Norma McLeod was unable to provide a sample because of her medical conditions

New report on 2017 wildfires calls for better coordination with B.C. First Nations

Tsilhqot’in National Government documents 2017 disaster and lists 33 calls to action

B.C. youth coach banned amid sexual harassment, bullying scandal: Water Polo Canada

Justin Mitchell can’t take part in Water Polo Canada events or clubs

Wilson-Raybould: Feds want to just ‘manage the problem’ of Indigenous Peoples

Former federal justice minister speaks at First Nations Justice Council meeting in B.C.

Most Read