There is nothing that is more unmistakably Canadian than the coffee and doughnuts from Tim Hortons. It is a brand which has been fundamentally hardwired into the Canadian lifestyle, beginning with the onset of childhood when kids start begging their parents for timbits, into adolescence when the discovery of double-doubles leads to caffeinated late night shenanigans, and finally into adulthood when “rim wins” are used as de facto office currency. Sure, one could say that it is a crippling brand addiction, but there is no doubt in anyone’s minds that the cursive red lettering on the creamy background is every bit as patriotic as the red, white, and maple leaf of the frozen north.
Yet, following the expansionist initiatives of the Tim Hortons executive management into overseas markets, its charmingly humble character has given way to more hedonistic corporate undertones as the franchise chain started to commercialize its business practices in the late 1990s. In an effort to become competitive on the global stage, Tim Hortons became one of the greatest domestic advocates of the Temporary Foreign Worker (TFW) program, which has recently come under fire for its apparent abuses at several fast food franchise chains, especially in Western Canada.
While Tim Hortons was not specifically singled out in the charges of abuse, the far-ranging implications of the policy changes that Employment Minister Jason Kenney has decided to pursue with respect to the program will most definitely undermine the bottom-line efforts of the franchise chain. Amongst the proposed policy changes, a ban on restaurants hiring TFWs for entry-level jobs in areas where the unemployment rate exceeds 6 per cent. In addition, a cap designed to eventually phase out the program will limit the total number of TFWs at a workplace to 30 per cent of all staff (to be gradually reduced to 10 per cent by 2016.)
While McDonalds had little to say when it was first accused of abusing its TFWs at franchises back in April, the debate was injected with new life after Tim Hortons CEO Marc Caira publicly went on record last week during an interview with Bloomberg News to emphasize the necessity of temporary foreign workers in the provision of quality service:
“If you don’t have access to some of the foreign workers where they are required it will ultimately also impact on the Canadians that work in that area, because we can’t really deliver on the promise that we want in terms of delivering quality service,” Caira told Bloomberg.
While he stopped just short of saying that Canadians are incapable of offering quality service, Caira’s overall message was that the country needed to “toughen up a bit” when it came to competing in the marketplace.
“The world loves Canadians,” Caira said, as quoted in the Ottawa Business Journal. “But I would humbly suggest that maybe sometimes we’re a bit too nice.”
He explained: “I’m not talking about rude or being arrogant or being disrespectful. I’m talking about leadership. I’m talking about being bold, being first, being proud. I’m talking about being daring.”
Translation? “I am seeking a fat bonus this fiscal year so I am going to use patriotism in order to justify hiring workers for peanuts!”
Unfortunately, there is nothing “proud” about living in a country where an economic climate of fear is being perpetuated by corporate greed, there is nothing “daring” about paying employees sub-human wages in order to ensure that corporate bottom-lines are met, and if the answer is that we need to “toughen up” perhaps it is the people in charge who need to show a bit of “leadership” by taking the first pay cut, lest we decide to outsource future executive management positions (I think we should call this program “Temporary Foreign CEOs”).