Tim Hortons blames ‘reckless’ franchise owners for benefit cuts, backlash

A statement on Tim Hortons‘ corporate website is placing blame on a “reckless few” franchise owners for employee benefit cuts that sparked a social media storm and calls for a boycott of the iconic coffee shop.

Lost jobs, cut hours, no paid breaks. Do minimum wage hikes hurt workers?

“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,” the statement reads.

“These recent actions…do not reflect the values of our brand.”

WATCH: Employee benefits cut at Ontario Tim Hortons amid minimum wage hike

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Condemnation has been swift to the news that owners of two Cobourg, Ont., locations decided to cut employee benefits and breaks to compensate for a provincial minimum wage hike to $14 an hour, up from $11.60. A letter given to staff outlining the changes blamed the provincially mandated wage hike, “as well as the lack of assistance and financial help from our head office and from the government.”

The controversy even caught the attention of Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne, who on Thursday called the benefit cuts a “clear act of bullying.”

The franchise owners — children of the chain’s founders — have stayed silent amid the controversy. The corporate statement, published Friday, acknowledged that store owners have been challenged by the rising wages pushing up the cost of doing business.

“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,” the statement also read.

While it did not elaborate on what assistance would be offered to franchise owners, the chain’s Canadian headquarters and parent company Restaurant Brands Inc. requested a mandatory conference call with all store owners on Friday afternoon, according to Great White North Franchisee Association, a group created last year to give voice to the concerns of some Tim Hortons franchisees.

Premier Wynne to blame for Tim Hortons cutbacks, not franchise owners: small business group

Industry groups and business owners have cautioned that the jump in the minimum wage would cause prices to rise and staff to be cut. The Bank of Canada estimated 60,000 jobs could be lost.

Ontario’s minimum wage will rise again in 2019 to $15.

— With a file from the Canadian Press

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