07/16/2015 03:34 EDT | Updated 07/16/2016 05:59 EDT

Tim Hortons offered buyouts to more than 15% of corporate staff

Tim Hortons has offered voluntary buyouts to a portion of its Canadian corporate staff of more than 2,000 employees, CBC News has learned.

"Recently we extended a voluntary salary continuance opportunity to approximately 15 per cent of our staff, of which just over three per cent elected to take the offer," wrote Michelle Robichaud, Tim Hortons director of public affairs, in an email.

Employees were offered three weeks of severance pay for every year they worked for Tim Hortons, according to a former Tim Hortons corporate office worker who recently accepted a buyout.

"They're looking to turn over the staff without looking like assholes," the former employee said.

The Tim Hortons spokeswoman portrayed the buyouts as part of a move to streamline the company's operations.

"We are confident that these changes will continue to ensure that our new organization will be faster, more efficient and better positioned for continued momentum, growth and success," wrote Robichaud.

Corporate evolution at Tim Hortons

In December 2014, Tim Hortons was purchased by 3G Capital, the majority owner of fast-food chain Burger King.

3G Capital, known for acquiring companies and imposing cost-cutting measures, merged the two companies to form Restaurant Brands International. Layoffs quickly followed at Tim Hortons headquarters and regional offices, with about 350 employees losing their jobs.

The deal was approved by Industry Canada, but with a series of conditions. Restaurant Brands International agreed to be based in Oakville, Ont., and to "maintain significant employment levels at that facility."

Specifically, Tim Hortons committed to retaining at least 80 per cent of corporate staff, according to an Industry Canada official. Staff levels at Canadian Tim Hortons franchises were to remain untouched.

Robichaud, the spokeswoman for Tim Hortons, said the company is "in full compliance with our commitments to Industry Canada."

Critics of the merger argued that Canadians would be harmed. A study by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives predicted that hundreds of workers would be laid off as a result of the deal.

"3G Capital has a well-established post-takeover playbook of cost cutting and mass layoffs, and the billions in new debt to finance the acquisition will create enormous pressure for changes at Tim Hortons," said the centre's senior economist David Macdonald.