Protesters stand outside a Tim Hortons in Toronto as part of National Day of Action in Support of Tim Hortons workers on Friday, January 19, 2018. (Frank Gunn/The Canadian Press)

Workers shouldn’t be used as ‘pawns’ in minimum wage fight: Wynne

Comments from Kathleen Wynne after demonstrators rallied outside Tim Hortons locations across Canada

Ontario’s premier is double-doubling down on her criticism of Tim Hortons franchisees who cut worker benefits amid the province’s minimum wage hike, saying a couple that own a trio of coffee shops east of Toronto shouldn’t use employees as pawns to push back against her government’s actions.

The comments from Kathleen Wynne come a day after demonstrators rallied outside Tim Hortons locations across Canada, including in B.C.

Wynne posted a statement on social media Friday that linked to a report about apparent benefits cuts at certain Tim Hortons locations in Whitby, Ont., and Ajax, Ont.

In a letter to employees being circulated on social media, franchisees Jason and Susan Holman tell workers that changes must be made as a result of the new “substantial, mandatory raise” they will be receiving. If the employees take issue with those changes, they should call Wynne, the letter says.

“I encourage you to let her know how your workplace will change as a result of her new law and that you will not vote Liberal in the coming Ontario election in June 2018,” the note says.

Wynne said the situation was “not acceptable.”

“When I said franchise owners should take their fight to me, I didn’t mean they should use their employees as pawns,” Wynne wrote in a post on Twitter. ”I’m happy to talk to any business owner about the minimum wage but taking it out on employees is not fair and not acceptable.”

Jason Holman said he had “absolutely no comment” when reached by phone Friday afternoon at a Whitby Tim Hortons.

Earlier this month, Wynne accused the children of Tim Hortons’ founders, who own a pair of franchises in Cobourg, Ont., of “bullying” their employees by cutting paid breaks and benefits in response to the wage hike. She said if Ron Joyce Jr., whose father co-founded the coffee shop chain, was opposed to the Liberal government’s decision to raise the minimum wage, he should have picked a fight with her, not the workers.

Ontario’s minimum wage rose on Jan. 1 to $14 an hour from $11.60. It will jump to $15 in Jan. 1, 2019.

A spokeswoman for the Great White North Franchisee Association, which represents some Tim Hortons shop owners, said the group had no comment on the latest incident.

Meanwhile, Ontario Labour Minister Kevin Flynn said he was struggling to understand why some Tim Hortons franchisees would court “reputational risk” by taking actions that hurt employees.

The minimum wage policy is popular with the majority of Ontario residents and most businesses are implementing it without complaint, he said.

“This whole rearguard action by some individuals seems to be contrary to the wishes of the people of Ontario and contrary to the spirit of the changes in the first place,” he said. “Even the harshest business critic hasn’t said to me that ‘I believe people should work or live in poverty.’”

Flynn said he would still welcome further discussions with small business owners about the policy but said Wynne was right to criticize the franchisees for such actions.

“If they wanted to come in and have a chat as to how they might get through this, we would have been happy to sit down with them,” he said. “They didn’t have to take it out a group of people that are making less than $15 an hour. That just seems cruel.”

Rallies were planned in cities across the country Friday against Tim Hortons franchisees who slash workers’ benefits and breaks in light of Ontario’s minimum wage increase.

Organizers behind the protest campaign, dubbed Fight for $15 and Fairness, have said the demonstrations were not about the franchise owners themselves, but rather to pressure their parent company.

Tim Hortons has said 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 by allowing them to raise prices.

With files from Peter Cameron

Shawn Jeffords, The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Just Posted

Mt. Hicks wildfire forces thousands of cyclists to divert from Hope

The 10th annual Ride to Conquer Cancer was meant to end in Hope Sunday

At least 14 illegal fires set between Chilliwack and Hope this month

Conservation officers are fed up with people not listening to the province-wide fire ban

Camp Ignite aims to inspire future first responders

Four-day camp offers young women a chance to experience the challenges of being a first responder

General aviation traffic down to a trickle at Chilliwack Airport

Minimum visibility guidelines can’t be met when conditions are so smoky you can’t see the mountains

Evacuation alert issued for Kamp Road properties as Mount Hicks fire moves west

An evacuation alert has been issued for all properties on Kamp Road.… Continue reading

Social media, digital photography allow millennials to flock to birdwatching

More young people are flocking to birdwatching than ever, aided by social media, digital photography

Are your kids anxious about going back to school?

BC Children’s Hospital offers tips to help your children be mindful and reduce stress

New trial ordered for James Oler in B.C. child bride case

Meanwhile, appeal court dismisses Emily Blackmore’s appeal of guilty verdict

This trash heap in Vancouver could be yours for $3.9 million

Sitting atop 6,000 square feet, the home was built in 1912, later destroyed by fire

Date rapist left victims with ‘long-lasting, emotional scars,’ judge says

Klifford Kenyon of Abbotsford sentenced to additional two years in prison

Fire in barn that housed therapy horses has been confirmed an arson

Abbotsford Police Department is now investigating and seeks witnesses

Team Canada’s next game postponed at Little League World Series

They’re back in action on Wednesday against Peurto Rico

Ex-Trump lawyer Cohen pleads guilty in hush-money scheme

Said he and Trump arranged payment to porn star Stormy Daniels and a former Playboy model to influence the election

Former Trump aide Paul Manafort found guilty of eight charges

A mistrial has been declared for the other 10 charges against him

Most Read