Tim Hortons lashes out at 'rogue' franchisees as employees lose even more perks

Restaurant Brands International, the multinational fast food giant that owns Tim Hortons, has snapped back at what it calls a "rogue group" of franchise owners, as even more employees at more locations reveal they're losing more and more perks.

Some employees told they get no more free coffee and have to pay for their uniforms

A customer at a Tim Hortons reads the menu while a worker makes a drink behind the counter.
Tim Hortons' corporate parent is blaming 'rogue franchisees' for a backlash against the chain in the wake of minimum wage hikes. (Evan Mitsui/CBC)

Restaurant Brands International, the multinational fast food giant that owns Tim Hortons, has snapped back at what it calls a "rogue group" of franchise owners.

The company's statement came as more employees at more locations revealed they're losing perks in cuts by owners who blame Ontario's minimum wage hike. 

RBI said Friday: "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."

It is the most strongly worded response from the Tim Hortons corporate parent since news broke that franchisees were cutting employees' paid breaks, benefits and other perks in response to Ontario's minimum wage hike, which rose $2.40 per hour to $14 per hour on Jan. 1.

That story, first reported by CBC News, revealed a franchise in Cobourg, Ont., was eliminating paid breaks and asking employees to pay the majority of costs associated with benefits.

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The franchise owners are the scions of two families who founded the chain more than 50 years ago, Ron Joyce Jr. and his wife Jeri-Lynn Horton-Joyce. The former is the son of Ron Joyce, who co-founded the chain in 1964. The latter is the daughter of Tim Horton himself. They are married.

The story has become a flashpoint in the debate over minimum wage hikes.

In response to the initial story, RBI said individual franchises "are responsible for handling all employment matters, including all policies for benefits and wages, for their restaurants."

But facing a growing backlash from employees and customers in media stories and online in social media, the corporate giant today pushed back. 

"Let us be perfectly clear. These recent actions by a few restaurant owners, and the unauthorized statements made to the media by a 'rogue group' claiming to speak on behalf of Tim Hortons, do not reflect the values of our brand, the views of our company or the views of the overwhelming majority of our dedicated and hardworking restaurant owners."

Even more cuts coming

This came as the number of known franchises making cuts continued to grow. 

CBC News has learned franchises in Thunder Bay, Windsor and St. Thomas, Ont., as well as other locations, have all informed employees about changes implemented in the wake of the minimum wage increase.

A source told CBC News that the owner of four Tim Hortons franchises in St. Thomas, Ont., is making cuts beyond paid breaks and benefits.

In a document obtained by CBC News, employees were told they will now have to pay for uniforms.

Some Tim Hortons employees have been told they will soon have to pay for their own uniforms.

An employee, who asked to remain anonymous for fear of losing their job for speaking out, told CBC News that's a cost of $90 to $100 a year.

"We previously got one [uniform] free per year on our anniversary date." they said. 

They're also losing a free drink they used to get to take home at the end of their shift. They've been told any drink in a paper cup will be paid for at full price. 

Some Tim Hortons employee say they also used to be entitled to free hot drinks under certain circumstances, but that is being clawed away.

The Great White North Franchisee Association, which says it speaks for a number of Canadian Tim Hortons franchise owners, has said it is facing a massive increase in labour costs and says it has cut costs because their parent company, RBI, has refused to raise prices.

In the statement responding today, RBI said: "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. However, Tim Hortons team members should never be used to further an agenda or be treated as just an 'expense.' This is completely unacceptable."


Aaron Saltzman

Senior Reporter, Consumer Affairs

Aaron Saltzman is CBC's Senior Business Reporter. Tips/Story ideas always welcome.