Lindsay’s Tim Hortons not willing to talk about wages, employee incentives

By Roderick Benns

Roderick Benns is the publisher of The Advocate. An award-winning author and journalist who grew up in Lindsay, he has written several books including Basic Income: How a Canadian Movement Could Change the World.

Lindsay's Tim Hortons not willing to talk about wages, employee incentives
We continue to talk about Tim Hortons as if it’s a Canadian company. It is not. In 2014, there was a $12.5-billion takeover of Tim Hortons by Brazilian-based 3G Capital.

Last week’s national headlines were dominated by the Tim Hortons brand. Not surprising.

In nearby Cobourg, the owners of the local Tim Hortons there (who just happen to be Ron Joyce Jr., son of Tim Hortons co-founder Ron Joyce, and Jeri-Lynn Horton-Joyce, daughter of Tim Horton) decided they could no longer afford to pay staff for workday breaks.

Publisher Roderick Benns.

That means workers’ nine-hour shifts would yield just eight hours and 20 minutes of pay. Not only that but some benefits’ costs were going to shift to employees, while other incentives were scrapped.

This Cobourg Tim Hortons’ franchise was responding to the Province moving swiftly to a $14 an hour minimum wage, up $2.60 an hour overnight on Jan. 1. Minimum wage will go up $15 an hour this time next year.

I thought it would be important for The Lindsay Advocate to give local Tim Hortons’ franchisees a chance to go on the record. For all I knew, they had no such plans, which means employees might actually be better off with their higher minimum wage.

I personally called five Lindsay Tim Hortons, hoping to find out what their plans were. One Tim Hortons franchise owner, known to me only as ‘Allan’ (possible incorrect spelling), hung up as soon as I identified myself and why I was calling. That was the downtown 191 Kent Street West location.

The Mount Hope Street location, owned by Ryan Graham, never returned my call. Ditto for the Lindsay Street South location owned by Ken and Shelby Hunter.

I was told to “contact head office” at the 329 Kent Street West location because the owner had no comment.

Finally, the manager of the Tim Hortons location on Hwy 35 South told me she wasn’t allowed to even tell me the owner’s name and that they had no comment anyway.

My only intent was to find out how our local Tim Hortons’ locations were responding to the Province’s decision to create something closer to a living wage for people. The fact that all five that I contacted either hid behind “no comment” or some variation makes me wonder what it is they don’t want to talk about.

Do they have similar plans for their employees as the Cobourg location’s owners? If so, why not discuss why this might be? There’s no doubt the Province’s minimum wage increase will be challenging for local businesses – even for big-name franchisees like Tim Hortons. Speaking to The Lindsay Advocate would have given them a chance to go on the record and talk about it.

Corporate Soul

We continue to talk about Tim Hortons as if it’s a Canadian company. It is not.

In 2014, there was a $12.5-billion takeover of Tim Hortons by Brazilian-based 3G Capital, Restaurant Brands International’s largest shareholder.

Tim Hortons sold its corporate soul to this multinational four years ago. Its new owners have been in the business news pages for years now, cutting and aggressively expanding around the world.

I feel some empathy for the individual Tim Hortons franchise owners, too, who have seen more and more profits taken from their hands to line the pockets of the corporation instead.

Fair Taxation

Low income earners in Canada used to be able to support their families decades ago because there was a level of fair taxation.

Last month, the Toronto Star teamed up with Corporate Knights Magazine and analyzed the financial filings of Canada’s 102 biggest corporations. Their research showed that these huge companies have avoided paying $62.9 billion in income taxes over the past six years.

Sixty-five years ago, the Star notes that people and corporations contributed equal amounts of income tax to the Canadian government.

In 2015/16 — the most recent statistics available — Canadians paid $145 billion in income tax, while corporations paid $41 billion.

Sound fair to you? Does it sound like Tim Hortons – the corporation – deserves your business, let alone your sympathy?

While our governments seem to have a hard time finding money to invest in much-needed public services, giant corporations are flush with more money than ever before.

Let’s demand that corporations pay their fair share in taxes, instead of individuals having to cough up more than three times as much.

In the meantime, consider getting that cup of coffee elsewhere, like Boiling Over’s Coffee Vault, Common Ground, Mickaël’s Cafe Librairie, or one of the other fine local coffee houses in town.

You can tell them a guy named Tim Horton sent you.

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