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Barlow boycotting Tim Hortons over minimum wage controversy

Council of Canadians honorary chairperson Maude Barlow tweeted this morning, “I will boycott Tim Hortons”.

This is in response to the news that Cobourg, Ontario Tim Hortons franchise owner Ron Joyce Jr. (the son of Tim Hortons co-founder Roy Joyce whose net worth is US$1.4 billion) and his wife Jeri-Lyn Horton-Joyce telling their employees that the new $14 minimum wage in Ontario necessitates changes in their benefits.

Vice News reports, “The specific cuts at the Tim’s location [in southern Ontario] includes no more paid breaks, meaning that ‘a 9 hour shift will be paid for 8 hours and 20 minutes’. The cuts require workers to cover half the cost of their health benefits after five years of employment, and cover 75 percent of the cost between six months and five years’ employment. Two incentives, both for working on your birthday and working six months without a sick day, have also been pulled.”

Furthermore, CBC reports, “Employees at nearly a dozen Tim Hortons outlets across Ontario tell CBC News they are facing the loss of paid breaks, benefits, and perks by franchise owners citing Ontario’s minimum wage increase.”

That article adds, “Sources tell CBC News Tims franchise owners are taking similar action in Leamington and Port Hope and at multiple locations in the Cobourg area. …One family that owns six franchises in Durham Region, east of Toronto, is cutting paid breaks at its locations because of what it calls a ‘massive’ increase in labour costs. Ontario’s minimum wage rose to $14 an hour from $11.60 on Jan. 1, and it will go to $15 next year.”

Tim Hortons is owned by Restaurants Brands International, which is in turn 51 per cent owned by the Brazilian investment firm 3G Capital.

Vice notes, “Tim Horton corporate told the CBC in an email that ‘almost all of our restaurants in Canada are independently owned and operated by small business owners who are responsible for handling all employment matters.'”

The Council of Canadians has long supported the call for a higher minimum wage.

In an October 2014 study by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, Jim Stanford and Jordan Brennan countered the assertion that a higher minimum wage would result in higher unemployment levels. They wrote, “Claims that higher minimum wages will inevitably cause measurable negative consequences (especially for young workers and those in low-wage industries) are not consistent with empirical evidence from the Canadian provinces. Minimum wage regulations do not have important consequences on employment outcomes in either direction. Not surprisingly, employment outcomes depend first and foremost on the overall level of spending and macroeconomic activity.”

The Ottawa-based think-tank also found a higher minimum wage would benefit companies with increased employee retention and the broader economy with more individuals with greater purchasing power.

The Council of Canadians has also previously highlighted that Tim Hortons has rejected selling fair trade coffee, has said it needs temporary foreign workers to remain fully staffed, and that it sources palm oil from suppliers that are clear-cutting tropical rainforests to make way for palm oil plantations.

To retweet Barlow’s tweet, please click here.

Further reading
Harper welcomes Brazilian purchase of Tim Hortons (August 28, 2014)
Barlow says layoffs at Tim Hortons part of #HarpersRecord (January 29, 2015)