Employees at more Tim Hortons franchises say they're losing paid breaks after minimum wage hike

Employees at six more Tim Hortons franchises in Ontario say they're facing rollbacks to paid breaks just days after the province's minimum wage hike went into effect.

New complaints follow CBC News coverage of Tim Hortons' heirs clawing back incentives at Cobourg shop

The owners of six Durham region Tim Hortons have cut paid breaks, one employee says. (Mehrdad Nazarahari/CBC)

Employees at six more Tim Hortons franchises have revealed to CBC Toronto they're facing cuts to paid breaks after Ontario's minimum wage hike earlier this month.

The allegations follow a CBC News report on similar rollbacks at a Cobourg, Ont. location owned by the company's heirs. 

An employee at a Whitby, Ont. branch of the fast-food chain says workers found a note posted in the staff bathroom, stating that as of Jan. 1, all six franchises could no longer afford to pay for employees' 15-minute breaks. 

CBC Toronto has agreed to conceal the employee's identity, as she fears reprisals from her employer.

The same notice was posted at five other locations in Durham region owned by the same franchisees, the full-time employee said, adding that the change means she will lose $2,000 dollars annually. "It's a half-hour off my shift," she said.

"We work long, hard hours and they're split into two 15-minute breaks. It's not much."

She feels the franchises are reneging on the deal they have made with their employees. "What bothers me is the contract of employment that they have no intention of complying with."

The owners of the Durham locations have refused requests for comment.

Rollbacks legal, lawyer says

The Ministry of Labour stated an employer can "set out the terms and conditions of employment as long as the Employment Standards Act is followed."

In this case, employment lawyer Jason Beeho says the incentive rollbacks, while frustrating for employees, are likely the employer's prerogative. 

"Short of this being a dramatic reduction of compensation and benefits, these types of changes are at the discretion of the employer," he said.

Even so, some disappointed customers say they are willing to speak with their money. 

'Maybe I'll [stay away] from this specific location if they're doing that,' one Tims regular, Michael Bryen says. (Mehrdad Nazarahari/CBC)

"Maybe I'll [stay away] from this specific location if they're doing that. I can go down the street. There're tons of them everywhere," said regular Michael Bryen.

Outrage from employee advocates and some consumers over the Cobourg franchise's cutbacks culminated in a scathing comment from the premiere on Thursday.

'The act of a bully,' premier says

"To be blunt," Wynne told CBC News in an interview, "I think it's the act of a bully. And if Mr. Joyce Jr. wants to pick a fight, pick that fight with me and not the people who are working at the service window of the stores."

Ron Joyce Jr. and Jeri-Lynn Horton-Joyce, the owners of the Cobourg branch, are the son and daughter of the chain's co-founders, Ron Joyce and the late Tim Horton.

They distributed a letter to their employees, requiring them to sign off on a series of compensation changes, including the elimination of paid breaks. The letter also asked them to pay the majority of costs associated with benefits.

An excerpt from a letter that was posted at six Tim Hortons franchises in Durham region (Mehrdad Nazarahari/CBC)

The heirs also turned down requests for comment by CBC News.

The corporate parent of the Tim Hortons chain, TSX-listed Restaurant Brands International, told CBC News in a statement that franchise owners, not the company, are responsible for all staffing matters, including wages and benefits.