Solely blaming the franchise owners won’t do any good for Tim Hortons employees

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Tim Hortons employees have become a focal point for the debate surrounding the Ontario government’s minimum wage hike. While it’s tempting to look to one source of blame, the issues facing workers are the result of a complicated series of mistakes made by multiple parties. 

On Jan. 1, Ontario's minimum wage was raised to $14 and, as a result, multiple Tim Hortons restaurants have taken away employees' paid breaks and other benefits, as well as cutting hours for some of its employees. 

The anger felt by the employees affected by the cuts is valid, but the reality is the issue caused by the minimum wage increase is much bigger than individual franchise owners. Their reaction stems from the position they’re being put in by Tim Hortons as a parent company and the provincial government. Blaming one and not the others isn’t going to bring about positive change. 

Treating the situation that Tim Hortons employees are now facing as if franchise owners are the only problem is a dangerous oversimplification. Despite claiming they’re committed to helping restaurant owners “work through these changes,” Tim Hortons has also deflected the blame they’ve received for the cutbacks directly at those same restaurant owners. Tim Hortons has distanced themselves, releasing statements that claim these restaurant owners "do not reflect the values of our brand, the views of our company or the views of the overwhelming majority.” 

At the end of the day, Tim Hortons is a very profitable business and has the ability to help the restaurants that are feeling the worst of the effects of the minimum wage increase. It’s only choosing not to. 

At the same time, Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne has also blamed franchise owners, even suggesting to one that he “pick a fight” with her instead of his employees. What Wynne is side-stepping is the role the provincial government played in allowing this situation to happen.  

While small businesses were given a tax cut, there needed to be more checks and balances to ensure the cost of the minimum wage increase was offset before it was put into practice. The increase is something that needed more time and thought from the government, as well as more preparation from Tim Hortons. 

The provincial government and Tim Hortons as a larger company need to be held accountable for the part they’ve played if there is ever to be a real solution.

— Journal Editorial Board

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