Poll: Ontarians split on support for paying more at Tim Hortons to restore workers' paid benefits and breaks

Poll: Ontarians split on support for paying more at Tim Hortons to restore workers’ paid benefits and breaks

Do you think most people would pay more for a double-double so that the person serving it could have paid breaks and benefits? It might just depend on how often you go to Tim Hortons, according to a new poll by Forum Research.

Forum polled 1,022 Ontario voters between Jan. 11 and 13, and found that nearly all respondents said they're aware that some Tim Hortons franchises have taken away paid breaks and other incentives from employees in order to cut costs — but the public is split on the question of whether people would pay more to give those employees back those perks.

About three-quarters of respondents (76 per cent) said they were "very aware" of the issue, while another 15 per cent said they were "somewhat aware." Only 9 per cent said they were "not very aware," or not "at all aware."

Forum asked respondents — those who said they're aware of the issue — if they thought their "social group," such as their friends and colleagues, would support increasing the cost of menu items to restore paid breaks and other incentives to employees that lost them. They found 35 per cent said yes, 39 per cent said no, and 14 per cent said they would have no opinion, and others said they did not know.

Respondents who frequent Tims more often were far more likely to say their social group would oppose an increase to the cost of menu items, compared to those who don't. Of those who said they go to Tim Horton's once a day, 22 per cent said their social group would support an increase, while only 12 per cent of those who said they go to Timmies more than twice a day said the same.

Forty per cent of those who go to Tim Hortons less than once a month said they'd support an increase, as did 41 per cent of those who go to Timmies once a month.

Respondents were more likely to say their friends or colleagues would support increasing the cost of menu items if they also said they personally support the Ontario Liberals (49 per cent), rather than the PCs (29 per cent) or the NDP (36 per cent).

However, it's worth noting that increasing menu prices isn't an option for Ontario franchise owners.

According to a group of owners called the Great White North Franchisee Association, the parent company — Brazil-based Restaurant Brands International — controls both the cost of food for the franchises and the menu prices, and has refused to make any adjustments to compensate for the minimum-wage hike in Ontario.

For its part, Restaurant Brands International has condemned the actions of "rogue" franchisees who've cut their employees paid breaks and benefits.

“Almost all Ontarians are aware of the controversy caused by some Tim Horton's franchisees when they decided to cut costs by removing paid breaks and other incentives from employees after wages went up," said Lorne Bozinoff, president of Forum Research, in a press release. “But the opinion on menu price increases to restore these incentives was divided: the plurality said their social group would oppose higher prices, but almost as many said their peers would support higher costs."

Results are considered accurate +/- 3%, 19 times out of 20, Forum says.

The politics

The Ontario government raised the minimum wage from $11.60 to $14 on Jan. 1, and legislated that it will rise to $15 on Jan. 1, 2019, as part of a package of labour reforms.

The news broke nearly two weeks ago that the owners of some Tim Hortons franchises have cut their employees paid breaks, paid benefits and other incentives because of the cost of the minimum wage increase.

Premier Kathleen Wynne quickly joined the fray, accusing the Tim Hortons heirs who own franchises in Cobourg of bullying for making those changes.

The Ontario NDP supports the minimum-wage increase, but also urges further labour reforms, while the Progressive Conservatives say the minimum-wage increase is too much too soon, and have pledged to roll out the increase to $15 over four years rather than one if they win the provincial election in June.

Who goes to Timmies?

Almost everyone. Forum found 91 per cent of respondents said they'd purchased something at Tim Hortons in the last year, with Ontarians who make the most money more likely to say so than those who make the least.

People go often, too. Forum found 17 per cent of respondents said they go to Timmies "almost every day" or more often. Twelve per cent said they go several times per week, 9 per cent said they go once per week. And 20 per cent said they go several times a month, while 15 per cent said once per month.

About a quarter of respondents — 26 per cent — said they go less than once a month. Frequent Timmies flyers have all different levels of income, political affiliations, educational backgrounds and ages, according to the Forum poll.

Jessica Smith Cross

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