The View From Here – In a prosperous society, it is unjust that many working people still live in poverty

Tom Henihan

Numerous Tim Hortons franchise owners in Ontario are revoking paid breaks, benefits and perquisites in response to Ontario’s minimum wage increase.

Tim Hortons are not alone in clawing back from minimum wage employees the small gains those employees have receive due to the wage increase.

We have seen all manner of social progress and social reforms recently, along with a great many spurious claims for human rights.

However, the one reform that has not been implemented is the fundamental right that all workers should receive a living wage.

In a developed society and a prosperous economy, if someone goes to work every day they ought not to live in poverty.

Not that $14 or $15 an hour is by any means adequate especially in Ontario cities such as Toronto where the cost of living is exorbitantly high.

Tim Hortons use the term “Team Member” instead of employee to suggest that the people who work in their restaurants are an integral, valued part of the enterprise.

However, the truth is that a Tim Hortons employee is a complete unknown in the eyes of that corporation and Tim Hortons couldn’t care less about the fate or wellbeing of its Team Members once they finish their shift.

If it did care, it would not do everything in its power to exacerbate the already marginal circumstances of its employees.

When you are a Tim Hortons Team Member, membership does not have any privileges.

On the contrary, the bogus notion of membership is designed to demean and institutionalize employees by insisting that the “valued team members,” forfeit their individually and subjugate their personalities behind the corporation’s drab uniform and scripted efficiencies.

If a business cannot pay its employees a minimum wage of $14 an hour then it should not be deemed a business. The culture is that if there is a deficit of some kind it will fall to the employees to absorb it.

The CBC published a letter received by valued “Team Members” at six Tim Hortons outlets owned by the same family in the Durham Region of Ontario.

The letter says:

“I’m sure some of you have wondered that with such a dramatic increase in wages if some or many of you will be laid off or lose your job. I want to assure you we are doing everything we can to eliminate that concern,” the owners wrote.

“Unfortunately when wages rise at such a fast pace we cannot raise our prices at the same rate to offset the costs and something has to give.”

“Effective January 1, 2018 we will no longer be able to provide the benefit of paid breaks.”

The Orwellian double-speak and veiled threat of laying people off is despicable and the greed of this family who own not one, but six Tim Hortons restaurants is equally contemptible.

Cutting paid breaks aside, the patronising, dishonest tenor of the letter and the threatening undertone is a prime example of the business and corporate culture. The concept of losing profits under any circumstances is anathema to the corporate mindset so employees must always absorb the shortfall.

What is heartening is that the public and regular Tim Hortons customers have sided with the employees and many have boycotted the franchises to show their solidarity. If enough people participate in the boycott it may set a precedent where corporate greed will prove more costly than being fair and responsible in the first instant.


Share this post