Tim Hortons employees and demonstrators are hosting protests in the Lower Mainland today, supporting their colleagues in Ontario who’ve seen cuts to their benefits and breaks due to the increase of minimum wage.
It’s being called a national day of action by more than 50 groups across Canada that spent their mornings rallying with signs outside Tim Hortons locations, including in Surrey, Vancouver and Maple Ridge.
Chris Fofonoff, organizer of the Surrey rally, estimated about 30 people came out to the Tim Hortons to protest from 7 to 8 a.m. Friday morning.
“It was a real good one,” he said later that morning. “We got a good turnout in spite of the fact that we had no sunlight for the first half of it.
“We got a lot of honks as soon as the sun came up and people could see our signs, that’s for sure.”
The demonstrations come just a few weeks after an Ontario franchise owner was under fire for cutting back on employee benefits and paid breaks. The changes were in response to the province increasing its minimum wage to $14 an hour.
Once word got out about the way the owners were offsetting their increased costs, a social media campaign was started encouraging people to boycott Tim Hortons in solidarity of the workers.
The coffee company, dubbed a piece of Canadian culture, are operated as franchises – meaning they are individually owned but operate under a 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.
But those in protest say the back-and-forth between Tim Hortons and franchise owners doesn’t help the employees who are being impacted.
Minimum wage implications resonate in B.C.
The pressure by many British Columbians for the government to increase minimum wage has been an ongoing discussion for years – recently seeing commitment by the NDP to fulfill a $15 wage by 2021.
In a news release Thursday, B.C. Federation of Labour president Irene Lanzinger said she’d be participating at the Vancouver rally Friday.
“It’s time to send Tim Hortons and its parent company, Restaurant Brands International (RBI), a strong message – stop punishing your workers,” says Lanzinger.
BCFED has been campaigning to boost B.C.’s minimum wage for years, suggesting that the boost could lift 500,00 workers above the poverty line.
“It’s [minimum wage] so far behind the cost of living,” Fofonoff said.
The Tim Hortons rallies, he said, are to show companies they “can’t get away with it,” if they choose to follow suit once a higher minimum wage is instituted in B.C.