Now that the increase to Ontario’s minimum wage has arrived, the owners of a Tim Hortons in Cobourg, Ont., are drawing criticism for their cost-cutting measures.
A photo posted to Facebook by a customer shows a letter he says was handed out to staff that states that paid breaks are being eliminated as well as a number of other incentives and cuts to employee benefits.
“These changes are due to the increase of wages to $14.00 minimum wage on January 1, 2018, then $15.00 per hour on January 1, 2019, as well as the lack of assistance and financial help from our Head Office and from the Government,” the letter states.
It also states that health and dental benefits, which used to be covered 100 per cent, will be reduced to only 50 per cent coverage for employees that have worked there longer than five years, and less for those who haven’t.
The letter was signed “Jeri, Ron and Lisa,” and were identified as the children of the co-founders of the chain.
Global News wasn’t able to reach them for comment, but a Tim Hortons spokesperson did provide a statement.
“Almost all of our restaurants in Canada are independently owned and operated by small business Owners who are responsible for handling all employment matters,” the statement read. “Including all policies for benefits and wages, for their restaurants.”
The statement added that “restaurant owners are expected to comply with all applicable laws and regulations within their jurisdiction.”
None of the changes contravene Ontario’s Employment Standards Act, which requires employers to give workers a 30-minute eating period – or two shorter breaks that add up to 30 minutes, if the employee agrees – if a shift lasts more than five consecutive hours. These do not have to be paid.
Additional breaks only have to be paid if the employee is required to stay on premises, said an Ontario Ministry of Labour spokeswoman. A nurse who must stay in a hospital lounge during his or her break, for example, would have to be paid, she said.
Martin Sherris, the president of The Greater Kingston Chamber of Commerce doesn’t agree with that cost-cutting measure, but understands the concern business-owners have about the increase to $14 an hour.
“We’ve had many of our businesses vocalize the fact that they will have to find a way to mitigate the cost,” Sherris said.
Some businesses, like the Tir Nan Og on Ontario Street in Kingston, have had to raise prices to cope with higher wages.
The manager of the downtown pub said customers can expect to pay about six per cent more for menu items, but that eliminating staff or some of their incentives was not an option.
“The whole idea behind the wage increase is to make things more equitable,” Gary Cork said. “We certainly don’t want any negative spin-off to happen to our staff as a result.”
*With files from the Canadian Press