Welcome to 2018. It's not bad enough Canada’s top CEO’s earned by noon what our least paid workers earn all year, but also add in the outrageous reaction from a few big corporations in response to the increase in Ontario’s minimum wage.
Leading the attack was a happy New Year from Tim Hortons. The once iconic brand associated with Timbits and hockey families unilaterally decided to claw back wages and benefits for hard working service industry people, citing rising costs and diminished profits. Worst of all, the offenders, co-owners of a Cobourg location, are the direct descendants of the firm’s co-founders, Ron Joyce and former Toronto Maple Leaf great, Tim Horton. Ontarians know bad behaviour when they see it and have overwhelmingly sent Jeri Horton-Joyce and Ron Joyce Jr. to the penalty box of public opinion.
Following their unfortunate lead, a few other Tim Hortons outlets announced they’ve scrapped paid breaks for their employees and are making them pay between half and three quarters of the cost of their benefits, depending on their years of service. Rebuke has been swift and now these locations will be facing the scrutiny of the entire labour movement, not to mention the customers who pad the accounts of these establishments.
In the case of Tim’s, this sneaky “give with one hand and take back with the other” approach comes from franchises that are backed by a big multinational corporation that piled up hundreds of millions in profits in the third quarter of last year alone. Why are they cross checking a server struggling to make ends meet on a living wage? Because they thought they could get away with it.
But times have changed. Workers' lives are changing slowly but surely. The five week CAAT Academic strike put precarious work on the radar like never before. The Liquor Board Employees Divisions' collective agreement struck a chord on the issue of equal pay for equal work for part timers. And our CAAT Support part-time organizing drive, the largest in Canadian history, finally realized after a lengthy struggle against a bully employer, proves that workers rights, labour rights and the trade union movement are on the rebound. I’m so proud of the role our union played in that renaissance.
People are now asking the important questions about equality. What about fairness? What about the wage gap? What kind of society do we want our children and grandchildren to inherit?
We have beat back nifty right wing slogans. We have driven home the idea that you can’t do more with less. You can only do less with less. The private sector doesn’t always do it better. The success of our We Own It campaign proves public service matters, a living wage is good for all of us and it’s time everyone pays their fair share for the society we all want.
Tim Hortons may have unwittingly played a very important role here. By highlighting the greed of a few they have shone the light on why fairness matters. The descendants of the founding families weren’t expecting this backlash. They expected to do what they always have done…control the play. But not this time. In one loud voice the people of Ontario have said: “Puck you! Your power play is over. We expect fairness in the workplace. We demand fairness.”
But we must remain vigilant. We must continue to move forward together because the struggle for working people never ends my friends. But celebrate the victories knowing that we are making a difference. The OPSEU way. Forward together.
Eduardo (Eddy) Almeida
First Vice-President/Treasurer, Ontario Public Service Employees Union