Tim Hortons workers in Dundas lose paid breaks, Timbits after minimum wage hike

More than 100 labour activists, including the mother of a worker who has lost paid breaks, picketed a Dundas Tim Hortons location on Wednesday.

Picketer: 'We need to support those that don't have it as good as the rest of us'

Marianela Quinlan's teenaged child works at a Tim Hortons in Dundas that recently took away paid breaks, she said. She was at the location to stand in support of workers on Wednesday. (Kelly Bennett/CBC)

Marianela Quinlan's 15-year-old child used to be able to sample a free donut or Timbit when working at a Tim Hortons in Dundas.

But in the wake of the province's higher minimum wage requirement, that perk is gone – along with her child's two paid, 15-minute breaks for every eight-hour shift. They've been replaced by a 30-minute unpaid lunch break.

That's what brought Quinlan out to the franchise location on York Road in the suburb of Hamilton Wednesday evening for a picket organized by the Hamilton and District Labour Council.

Joined by more than 100 others, some waving signs as passing vehicles honked, Quinlan said Wednesday she wanted to draw attention to ways in which workers in her community were being penalized in the wake of the new minimum wage hike.

"This isn't going to affect my child in the same way that it's going to affect those adult workers that had this employment as a means to feed their children, feed their families, pay their bills," she said.

Picketers carried signs and union flags in support of minimum wage workers at a protest Wednesday. (Kelly Bennett/CBC)

Hamilton protest one of several across Ontario 

The local protest was one of at least 17 across Ontario Wednesday called in reaction to reports of workers facing a loss of perks.

Tim Hortons has been under scrutiny this month since a Cobourg, Ont., franchise eliminated paid breaks after Ontario increased the minimum wage.

As of Jan. 1, minimum wage increased $2.40 per hour to $14 per hour.

Quinlan discovered the change to breaks when she heard about the similar clawbacks at Cobourg Tim Hortons and asked her teen, whose name and gender she's not disclosing publicly, about it.

Quinlan learned that managers had given her child a changed work contract to sign. She's not sure if other workers were given the same changes.

More than 100 people carried signs and waved to honking cars passing the Dundas Tim Hortons location on Wednesday. (Kelly Bennett/CBC)

'I'm still concerned that people ... are being affected this way'

Even though her teen needed a parent's signature to apply to work at Tim Hortons, she did not have a chance to review the change with her child.

"As a citizen of this community, I'm still concerned that people within our community that work at this Tim Hortons franchise are being affected this way. And as a parent I'm greatly concerned that minors that work at this location were not asked to take these contracts home, have them reviewed and then approved by their parents."

Another picket will be taking place next Tuesday at a Tim Hortons location at Upper Gage Avenue and Fennell Avenue, where the council has heard anonymous reports from workers that breaks are similarly going to be unpaid, said council president Anthony Marco.

"We're just letting people know: This is a franchise that is taking advantage of their workers, and you can choose at that point if you want to come in, or if you don't want to come in," he said.

Picketers stood outside a Tim Hortons in Dundas on Wednesday in support of workers who have lost paid breaks. (Kelly Bennett/CBC)

Also at the protest was Patti Encinas, former chair of the Sherman Hub neighbourhood council. Encinas worked at Tim Hortons for several years in the mid-to-late 1990s, and now works a unionized job in healthcare.

"I know what it's like to work there, and I know what it's like to live on minimum wage," she said. "I really feel strongly that we need to support those that don't have it as good as the rest of us." 

Requests for comment not returned from franchise owner

CBC News' requests for comment to the franchise owner, Kaylyn Pecaric, were not returned Wednesday.

Tim Hortons corporate representatives were at the Dundas location during the day and during the protest Wednesday, but they declined to comment and directed a reporter to contact the corporate office for clarification.

In an email to CBC, Tim Hortons' media relations did not answer any specific questions about the Dundas location but reiterated that most franchises are independently owned and are responsible for handling all employment matters.

Requests for comment or clarification from the franchise owner, Kaylyn Pecaric, were not returned on Wednesday. (Kelly Bennett/CBC)

Tim Hortons has previously blamed the recent uproar on a "rogue group" of franchise owners who "do not reflect the values of our brand."

'It's my job as a parent to help bring that understanding as much as I can'

The whole experience is providing some learning opportunities, Quinlan said.         

"I'm trying to teach my child the ways of the world, so to speak," she said. That includes the importance of asking for paper copies of employee contracts, she said.

It's her teen's first job.

"Right now it's still new and exciting and wow, I have money," she said. "The impacts of what these changes mean is possibly beyond my child's ability at this point to fully understand. But it's my job as a parent to help bring that understanding as much as I can."

Hamilton labour activists have also set up a website promising workers a secure place to anonymously complain about actions taken by their managers and franchise owners in the wake of minimum wage legislation. The site is called "What my Boss Did."



Kelly Bennett is a freelance reporter based in Hamilton. Her writing has appeared in CBC News, the Globe and Mail, the Toronto Star, Voice of San Diego and in the National Observer for the Local Journalism Initiative. You can follow her on Twitter @kellyrbennett or email kelly@kellyrbennett.com.

With files from Aaron Saltzman