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Protests at Tim Hortons across Canada today

Last Updated Jan 19, 2018 at 8:53 am PDT

A demonstration outside Tim Hortons at King George and 96th Avenue in Surrey on Januar 19, 2018 (Mike Lloyd, NEWS 1130 Photo)

Rallies at dozens of Tim Hortons across the country, in response to employee benefit cutbacks due to minimum wage hike

VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) – Your double double might come with a dose of demonstration today. Protesters are targeting dozens of Tim Hortons locations across the country.

It’s being called a national day of action in support of employees who have had benefits and breaks cut. That happened at some franchises in Ontario after the province raised the minimum wage.

Organizers behind the protest campaign, dubbed Fight for $15 and Fairness, say the demonstrations planned at specific Tim Hortons franchises are not about the franchise owners themselves, but rather to pressure their parent company.

Brittany Smith with Leadnow — one of the groups organizing the demonstrations — says 50 locations coast to coast are being targeted. “[We are] calling on Tim Hortons’ billion-dollar corporation, Restaurant Brands International, to step in and take whatever steps necessary to reverse the cuts and protect Tim Hortons’ workers.”

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She isn’t surprised to see national outrage.”They’re rolling back benefits, nickel-and-diming workers out of their breaks and uniforms and tips.”

“These punitive attacks on workers from a company that generates billions of dollars a year really fly in the face of that kind of warm and friendly brand,” adds Smith.

SFU marketing expert Lindsay Meredith agrees. “[This is] destroying that community image,” he adds. “That’s destroying the image of, ‘Hey, we’re one of you guys. We all participate. We’re ordinary Canadians.’ Well, you know what? Not anymore.”

He believes the situation could have been dealt with in the back rooms.

“[Tim Hortons] should have agreed right away… ‘Given our target market segment, the last thing we do is try and cut their hours and cut their benefits, and then have the media pick up on this.'”

Today’s planned protests follow similar demonstrations earlier this month at 16 Tim Hortons restaurants in Ontario, organized in response to a few franchises that clawed back workers benefits, paid breaks and other perks as a result of the minimum wage increase in Ontario from an $11.60 hourly rate to $14 at the start of the month.

The protests began after Jeri Horton-Joyce and Ron Joyce Jr., the children of the brand’s billionaire co-founders, rolled out the controversial measures at two Cobourg, Ont., locations they own.

Finger pointing between the company and franchisees over who bears responsibility for the cuts has intensified an ongoing public sparring over alleged mismanagement that has included several lawsuits filed against each other in recent months.

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. The franchisees want a 10 per cent price hike across the board, according to a source.

The Great White North Franchisee Association, which represents half of Canadian Tim Hortons franchisees, has said Ontario’s minimum wage hike and other changes to the province’s labour laws will cost the average franchisee $243,889 a year.

Tim Hortons has said the employee benefit cutbacks made by some franchises in Ontario “do not reflect the values of our brand, the views of our company, or the views of the overwhelming majority” of restaurant owners.