Workers at Canora, Sask., Tim Hortons successfully form union

Employees of a Tim Hortons franchise in Canora, Sask., are the first in the company to have a certified union in the province.

Vas Gunaratna, a vice-president with the Workers United Canada Council, said the union applied to represent the workers in early June but only received certification about three weeks ago.

The coffee and doughnut store shares a building with a pharmacy on Main Street in Canora, 200 kilometres northeast of Regina, and the workers are employed by Amenity Health Care, which owns the Tim Hortons location.

Gunaratna said since the certification, the employer has since agreed to meet with the union to negotiate the organization's first collective agreement, although the exact date of the meeting has not been specified.

"I think any collective agreement is tough, but the first contract is really tough because the employees need a lot of stuff and they expect a lot, but in the first collective agreement you don't get everything you want," he said.

"You have to build that over time."

He said the union members plan to fight for seniority and new rules on scheduling, but he would not disclose any other bargaining topics.

CBC News has reached out to Amenity for comment.

Amenity filed an unfair labour practice complaint against the workers earlier this year and Gunaratna said there have been hearings in Saskatoon, where both parties had the opportunity to speak. He said the results should be decided in early May.

Despite the dispute, he said the employees are not bitter toward Amenity.

"They don't like a union coming in. That's expected. Employers never like a union coming in because they feel they are let down by the workers."

Tim Hortons has been under the microscope for its labour relations practices, with nearly a dozen Ontario franchises cutting employee benefits due to an increase in the province's minimum wage.

Gunaratna said employees of the chain in Saskatchewan have been slow to unionize because of both time constraints and misconceptions.

"A lot of the employees are new immigrants, work part time and have other jobs. Maybe they're working two or three jobs to make ends meet so they don't have time to get involved with a union," he said.

"And, you know, some people are just scared. And they don't know the benefits that come with a union because they're not educated sometimes in what a union brings to the table."