Tim Hortons offered buyouts to more than 15% of corporate staff

Tim Hortons has offered voluntary buyouts to about 15 per cent of its total Canadian staff of more than 2,000 employees, CBC News has learned.

Follows layoffs of about 350 Tim Hortons employees in January

Tim Hortons has offered voluntary buyouts to about 15 per cent of its corporate staff. (Chris Young/Canadian Press)

Tim Hortons has offered voluntary buyouts to a portion of its Canadian corporate staff of more than 2,000 employees, CBC News has learned.

"Recently we extended a voluntary salary continuance opportunity to approximately 15 per cent of our staff, of which just over three per cent elected to take the offer," wrote Michelle Robichaud, Tim Hortons director of public affairs, in an email.

Employees were offered three weeks of severance pay for every year they worked for Tim Hortons, according to a former Tim Hortons corporate office worker who recently accepted a buyout.

"They're looking to turn over the staff without looking like assholes," the former employee said.

The Tim Hortons spokeswoman portrayed the buyouts as part of a move to streamline the company's operations.

"We are confident that these changes will continue to ensure that our new organization will be faster, more efficient and better positioned for continued momentum, growth and success," wrote Robichaud.

Corporate evolution at Tim Hortons

In December 2014, Tim Hortons was purchased by Burger King, which is majority owned by Brazilian investment firm 3G Capital.

3G Capital, known for acquiring companies and imposing cost-cutting measures, merged the two companies to form Restaurant Brands International. Layoffs quickly followed at Tim Hortons headquarters and regional offices, with about 350 employees losing their jobs.

The deal was approved by Industry Canada, but with a series of conditions. Restaurant Brands International agreed to be based in Oakville, Ont., and to "maintain significant employment levels at that facility."

Specifically, Tim Hortons committed to retaining at least 80 per cent of corporate staff, according to an Industry Canada official. Staff levels at Canadian Tim Hortons franchises were to remain untouched.

Robichaud, a spokeswoman for Tim Hortons, said the company is "in full compliance with our commitments to Industry Canada."

Bad for Canada, or business as usual?

Critics of the merger between Tim Hortons and Burger King argued that Canadians would be harmed. A study by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives predicted that hundreds of workers would be laid off as a result of the deal.

"3G Capital has a well-established post-takeover playbook of cost cutting and mass layoffs, and the billions in new debt to finance the acquisition will create enormous pressure for changes at Tim Hortons," said the study.

The move to reduce staffing levels at the merged company was both sensible and inevitable, said Ian Lee, an associate professor who teaches strategic management at Carleton University.

"They're acting according to the classical corporate strategy principles," said Lee. "When you put two companies together, you seek back-office synergies to reduce costs, to increase the profitability of the unit."

"They're focusing on the head office, not the sharp end of the stick where the value is created for customers," added Lee.