TORONTO, ON. (NEWS 1130) – Tim Hortons is responding to widespread criticism it has faced in recent days. This comes after some locations cut employee benefits in response to Ontario’s minimum wage hike.
The company’s head office is pointing the finger at what it’s calling a “rogue group,” saying its community relationships and relations between franchise owners and workers have been jeopardized by recent news stories and comments on social media.
Tim Hortons is essentially saying that the decision to cut benefits was a decision by individual franchises — not by head office.
In a letter sent late last month, employees at two Tim Hortons restaurants, owned by the children of Tim Hortons’ billionaire co-founders Ron Joyce Jr. and Jeri-Lynn Horton-Joyce, in Cobourg, Ont. were told that as of Jan. 1, they would no longer be entitled to paid breaks, and would have to pay at least half of the cost of their dental and health benefits.
The couple said the cuts to benefits were aimed at helping their company — Ron Joyce Jr. Enterprises Ltd. — offset the $2.40 hourly rate jump.
In the statement (read in full below), Tim Hortons calls the move “reckless.”
The company promises to help franchisees affected by the minimum wage hike, adding that workers deserve a fair and rewarding work experience. It says staff “should never be used to further an agenda or be treated as just an ‘expense.'”
This follows a deluge of online criticism:
Yesterday, the premier of Ontario lashed out at Joyce Jr. and Horton-Joyce. Kathleen Wynne called it a “clear act of bullying.”
Wynne 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.
“I’d be happy if this man were making a statement about the government or about the policy,” she said. “What I think is really unfair, and where I think the bullying comes in, is that he’s taking this out on his employees. He’s behaving in a way that I think is so unfair to his employees, people who are trying to make ends meet.”
Tim Hortons’ full statement:
Staying true to our brand’s values
There are several things that make the Tim Hortons® brand truly unique – like our connection to our communities and the great relationship our Restaurant Owners and their Team Members have with our Guests. It saddens all of us to see that jeopardized by the recent news stories and comments on social media, caused by the actions of a reckless few.
Let us be perfectly clear. These recent actions by a few Restaurant Owners, and the unauthorized statements made to the media by a “rogue group” claiming to speak on behalf of Tim Hortons®, do not reflect the values of our brand, the views of our company or the views of the overwhelming majority of our dedicated and hardworking Restaurant Owners.
While our Restaurant Owners, like all small business owners, have found this sudden transition challenging, we are committed to helping them work through these changes. However, Tim Hortons® Team Members should never be used to further an agenda or be treated as just an ‘expense.’ This is completely unacceptable.
Our Restaurant Owners across the country know that their Team Members are the heart of their Restaurants. They have great relationships with our Guests and provide them with the incredible service our brand is known for. We all see this for ourselves in Tim Hortons® Restaurants, every day. It’s important that we recognize that by providing them with a fair and rewarding work experience – and because it’s the right thing to do.
On behalf of the Tim Hortons® brand, our Restaurant Owners and thousands of dedicated Team Members, we look forward to continuing to work hard every day to provide our Guests with our great coffee and that unique Guest experience that we all know and love.
Marketing mess: professor
SFU Marketing Professor Lindsay Meredith says the whole situation is a major headache for the head office of Tim Hortons, especially given it had nothing to do with the decision made by some franchise owners.
“They don’t want to have to deal with the idea that their ‘coming down hard on wage earners,’ or even a perception, rightly or wrongly, that showed up on social networks, that they’re in fact taking it out on minimum wage earners, and that’s the marketing mess they’ve got themselves in now,” explains Meredith.
He adds Tim Hortons is now dealing with what he calls “a war on two fronts” — dealing with upset workers as well as “rogue” franchise owners.
“Unfortunately the head office at Tim’s has got themselves in a real crossfire,” says Meredith. “Number 1 is public perception, social media are hurting you, especially because your target market here, your big segment, are middle class wage earners. They all sympathize with minimum wage earners.”