Wynne double-doubles down on a risky wage war

Happy New Year? Not for Tim Hortons. The iconic coffee chain has been roasted recently for decisions by some of its franchise operators (including the children of its founders) to cancel paid coffee breaks and oblige employees to fund 50 to 75 per cent of the costs of their benefits.

“These changes are due to the increase of wages to $14.00 minimum wage on January 1, 2018, then $15.00 per hour on January 1, 2019, as well as the lack of assistance and financial help from our Head Office and from the Government,” reads a company memo employees were asked to sign.

Cue the brew-ha-ha: customers, workers and, of course, politicians all tossed their Timbits’ worth of opinion into the mix. “If all the companies that employ the customers of Tim Hortons did the same thing that Tim Hortons is doing,” said NDP’s ethics critic Nathan Cullen, “Tim Hortons would probably be out of business … [it] seems like a cruel decision, quite vindictive on their part.” The company didn’t mince words either: Tim Hortons issued a statement calling their franchisees’ actions “reckless” and “completely unacceptable.”

At first blush, they do seem mean — right up there with the Canada Revenue Agency proposing last year that employees declare their discount donuts as taxable benefits. Paid coffee breaks or tax-free snacks aren’t a human right, but they’re the little things that help humanize the workplace — especially in low-paid jobs that aren’t particularly fun on their own. Mess with that and you’ll get a backlash — as both Tim’s and the federal government quickly found out.

But instead of cracking down on restaurant owners, Tim Hortons should be screaming at Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne. With an election less than a year away, Wynne introduced Bill 148, the so-called “Fair Workplaces, Better Jobs Act” — a sweeping set of labour reforms that includes the hike in the province’s hourly minimum wage from $11.40 to $14 January 1, 2018, and $15 January 1, 2019.

Read the full article on iPolitics.

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