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Timmie's regulars rise up

Niki Lundquist loves the Earl Grey tea at Tim Hortons so much it's become a running joke in her Toronto office.

"No one has ever seen me without a Tim Hortons cup in my hand," said the in-house trade union counsel.

But now she's one of many people boycotting the coffee-and-doughnut chain until some Ontario franchisees and their corporate parent, Restaurant Brands International, come up with a different solution to offset the province's minimum wage hike than clawing back employee benefits.

A social media movement encouraged people to join "No Timmies Tuesday" on Jan. 9 and instead visit independent coffee shops.

The protest comes after some Ontario Tim Hortons franchisees eliminated paid breaks, fully covered health and dental plans, and other perks for their workers to help their businesses absorb the 20 per cent jump from an $11.60 hourly minimum wage to $14 at the start of the month. Those changes came to light after a letter from the owners of two Cobourg, Ont., franchisees circulated on social media.

Since then, concerned consumers have taken to social media and encouraged others to #BoycottTimHortons to put pressure on the chain to reverse the changes. However, the company and its franchisees are blaming each other for the decision, a blowout that could turn a local story with a small protest into a national tale and public relations disaster.

After seeing the letter, Lundquist went into her usual Tim Hortons in Whitby, Ont., to ask whether they made similar cutbacks. She said she decided to stop frequenting it after an employee reluctantly told her they were no longer paid for breaks. Employees at the other three Tim Hortons on her commute into work told her they were instructed not to speak about it, she said, so she inferred similar changes were afoot and gave up her Tim Hortons teas.

Alan Harris decided to stop his near daily pre-work Tim Hortons stop for an extra-large coffee and old-fashioned plain doughnut in Windsor, Ont. in a gesture of solidarity.

Harris works in retail and saw his pay increase to the new minimum wage this year.

"I can deeply understand what it means to live paycheque to paycheque," he said. Harris wants the boycott to put pressure on the corporation and franchisees to reintroduce the scaled-back benefits.



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