'Minimum wage bully hotline' launched by Ottawa labour council

An Ottawa labour council has launched a "minimum wage bully hotline" to publicly shame businesses cutting paid breaks and other worker benefits after the Jan. 1 increase to $14 an hour.

Council plans to publish names of businesses cutting paid breaks, benefits

The children of the Tim Hortons coffee chain founders cut paid breaks and staff benefits for employees after a minimum wage hike in Ontario. On Jan. 1, 2018, Kathleen Wynne's Liberal government implemented new rules mandating a minimum wage of $14 an hour. That's a $2.40 raise from last year's level. (Evan Mitsui/CBC)

An Ottawa labour council has launched a hotline to publicly shame businesses cutting paid breaks and other worker benefits after the province's minimum wage hike. 

It's wrong. It's just plain wrong.-Sean McKenny, Ottawa and District Labour Council president

On New Year's Day, the minimum wage in Ontario went up to $14 per hour, an increase of $2.40. In 2019 it will go up to $15 per hour. 

In response, multiple Tim Hortons franchises across the province have yanked paid breaks, some benefits and other perks, workers tell CBC News. Workers at some Sunset Grill, Wimpy's and East Side Mario's outlets in Ontario have also said they are losing perks.

"It's wrong. It's just plain wrong," said Sean McKenny, president of the Ottawa and District Labour Council (ODLC), in an interview. 

On Friday, he launched what he described as a "minimum wage bully hotline" to let the public know which businesses in the Ottawa area are implementing similar labour tactics. 

Social media campaign

He plans to verify the information sent into the hotline before publishing businesses' names on social media as part of a campaign about workers' rights, he said.

"If the public is aware that a particular restaurant or store or other business in our city has taken away benefits or holidays or breaks on workers, we think they should know," McKenny said, "and then they can decide whether or not they want to continue to visit that restaurant, to go to that business.

"It'll be up to them."

Sean McKenny, president of the Ottawa District Labour Council. (Ashley Burke/CBC)

McKenny said he will keep the names of callers confidential. 

The council also intends to start a leafleting campaign outside targeted businesses, though he said it will not amount to a boycott. 

'Pick that fight with me'

On Thursday, Premier Kathleen Wynne called the heir of Tim Hortons, Ron Joyce Jr., "a bully" for the franchise's treatment of workers and accused him of taking an unfair advantage. 

"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," the premier said.

McKenny agreed with Wynne's harsh rebuke, saying what some businesses are doing is unfair.

He also said small business who are benefiting from the Jan. 1 tax cut from 10.5 per cent to 10 per cent should consider passing on those savings to workers instead of punishing them. 

Restaurant Brands International, the fast food company that owns Tim Hortons, released a statement Friday saying the controversial cutbacks are being made by a "rogue group" claiming to speak on behalf of the iconic coffee chain. 

RBI added the recent actions "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."