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Temur Durrani

Multi-Platform Writer


The link between labour shortages and stagnant or uneven wages being paid by some businesses is “apparent” to Ontario Labour Minister Monte McNaughton. And he says that point was made clearer to him this week when new details came to light about frontline staff compensation at Tim Hortons.
“Look, if you’re a business out there and you want to attract a talented workforce, you need to pay them well,” McNaughton said in an interview. 
The provincial labour minister believes proper administration of wages to keep staff satisfied is key to the economic recovery from the pandemic. 
“I think those businesses that are paying workers well, that are providing benefits and in some cases pensions, those businesses are going to have a competitive advantage,” he said. 
“It’s about attracting and retaining workers. And those businesses that are stepping up, paying more, are going to get to keep their workers.”
The battle for talent has been put into focus by recent data. On Friday, Statistics Canada said Canadian job growth was quadruple economists’ expectations in November, while the unemployment rate sank to 6.0 per cent from 6.7 in October. Last week, meanwhile, the data agency released a report showing there were more than 1 million unfilled jobs in Canada in September.
BNN Bloomberg’s reporting on Tuesday, which was based on 27 different threads of obtained and verified emails as well as dozens of interviews, revealed that Tim Hortons doesn’t have protocols in place to ensure wages are on par across locations nor mandates for annual increases. The leaked email correspondence also showed general managers at several Tim Hortons locations in Ontario have been discussing a “hiring crisis” for weeks.
Much of the labour-shortage concerns, according to those leaked emails, boil down to stagnant wages and uneven pay across locations — something Tim Hortons headquarters said it does not interfere with. 
That’s because out of 4,000 locations in Canada, only two are corporate-owned, while all the others are run independently. “So you can imagine that there is a wide range of salary levels and annual salary increases across our system,” said Tim Hortons Communications Manager Meghan Giffin, who declined to provide salary numbers within the range she mentioned.

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Pedestrians walk past a Tim Hortons Inc. location in Toronto, Ontario - Bloomberg News

McNaughton said he’s concerned about those details and how wage issues might affect or exacerbate labour shortages. He said the Ontario government has taken up an “all-hands-on-deck effort” to address shortages directly with recent legislation. 
“Before the pandemic, 200,000 jobs were going unfilled. That’s grown to where we are today — 315,000 jobs are going unfilled and it is in every industry across Ontario,” McNaughton said.
He said the government is also increasing minimum wage from $14.25 per hour to $15 per hour in January. However, he added, it is now up to employers to step up.  
“I mean, I’m speaking to many business owners — particularly in the restaurant industry — that are paying well above the minimum wage right now,” said McNaughton. “They need to in order to attract workers.”