The Canadian multinational fast food chain, known for its coffee, doughnuts and annual Roll up the Rim to Win contest, attempt to duck responsibility for discriminatory treatment of its temporary foreign workers by hiding behind a franchise store was rejected by B.C. Human Rights Tribunal (BCHRT) last week.
Tim Hortons filed an application to dismiss a complaint brought forward by the United Steelworkers (USW) on behalf of a group of workers from the Philippines working at the company's Fernie, B.C. location by arguing it could not be held responsible for the conduct of its franchisee.
The BCHRT has dismissed that application and the complaint is now proceeding to a hearing.
The USW filed the human rights complaint after learning that these workers were being denied overtime premiums, given less desirable shifts, threatened with being returned to the Philippines and forced to rent accommodation from the restaurant owners.
"Tim Hortons wants their name to be synonymous with Canada, but there is nothing Canadian about the disgraceful treatment suffered by this group of workers," said Stephen Hunt, Director of the United Steelworkers for Western Canada.
Hunt alleged that this case is another example of the abuse that is commonplace in the Temporary Foreign Worker Program.
"If this complaint is successful, Tim Hortons will be forced to take responsibility for the treatment of their workforce. No longer will they be able to turn a blind eye to the discriminatory treatment of workers by hiding behind franchisees. It's time for Tim Hortons to demonstrate the Canadian values that it wishes to project by improving the treatment of their workers across Canada," Hunt said.
The six Tim Hortons workers who originally raised concerns over their working conditions are all Filipino and all were hired to work at the Fernie franchise.
They first spoke out in December of last year, with claims of alleged theft, threatening behaviour and manipulation on the part of their boss, Pierre Pelletier. Workers alleged Pelletier made sure the overtime pay they received came back to him — in cash — and that he even drove employees to the bank and waited while they cashed their pay cheques.
Response to allegations
Last year, after the allegations surfaced, Tim Hortons said it had expanded oversight of the use of temporary foreign workers at its franchises and taken over two locations in Fernie, B.C., and Blairmore, Alta.
The popular doughnut chain made the announcement hours before former Employment Minister Jason Kenny announced an immediate moratorium on the fast-food industry's access to the Temporary Foreign Worker Program, CBC said.
Tim Hortons also announced it was expanding its auditing system to include mandatory independent audits for every franchisee who accesses the federal Temporary Foreign Worker Program.
"We encourage the government to make independent audits mandatory for every company that uses this crucial program to reassure Canadians of the integrity of the program," said a company statement.
Scott Bonikowsy, vice-president of corporate affairs at Tim Hortons, said the program is necessary in some communities where there are not enough Canadians to fill positions in the company's restaurants.
"Tim Hortons has a strong track record in responsibly using this program. In a few isolated incidents where that has not been the case, we have acted to remove those franchisees from our system," said the statement. "We will not tolerate abuse of employment standards for Canadian or temporary foreign workers, and we will continue to work hard to create a positive, fair work environment for all of our team members."
According to Tim Hortons, the company employs around 4,500 temporary foreign workers, about five per cent of its workforce.
Re-published in partnership with The Filipino Post.