Over at Scene in Saskatchewan, Tammy criticizes Cosmo for not paying their disabled workers at least minimum wage. Many critics of Cosmo often make the claim that they pay their employees less than minimum wage. Yet I cannot ever seem to find any support for this “fact”. It’s often quoted, but where does it come from?

Since Cosmo is a federally registered charity, they must submit information to the Canada Revenue Agency, some of which is made public. Based on their charitable return, Cosmo has total compensation of $5,953,565 and 121 full time and 30 part time employees. The part time employee compensation totaled $232,577 so that leaves $5,720,988 for the full timers. The return shows what the top 10 highest paid employees made, within ranges, so one can calculate that the total compensation for the top 10 is between $440,000 and $839,990. This means that the remaining 111 employees cost between $5,280,988 and $4,880,998 in total compensation, so the average is between $44,000 and $47,500 per person.

Importantly, these numbers are for total compensation expense, so they include the employee’s gross pay, the employer (Cosmo’s) share of CPP and EI premiums, worker’s comp premiums etc. so the actual amount the employee receives is lower.

Now Tammy’s post says that this only accounts for the “able” employees, and I don’t understand why. I see no way that Cosmo could report to the Canada Revenue Agency and not include ALL employees, able bodied or not.

If the reports that Cosmo pays it’s disabled workers less than minimum wage is true, they can only do so because of a specific provision in provincial labour law. One that allows a non-profit to “underpay” disabled employees with special permission of the Labour Minister only. But under provincial law, they are still considered employees. It is doubtful that CRA would not also view them as employees, and require that their numbers be included in the ones shown on Cosmo’s charitable return.

So that means that the disabled workers that critics claim are “underpaid” are actually paid about $40,000 a year or so. A far cry from “less than minimum”.

Maybe Cosmo’s critics are right and they do pay less than minimum, there isn’t much information to go on at Cosmo’s website. What I did notice on their website is that they also have other activities for their “participants” other than work. Cosmo also appears to offer non-vocational services, recreational activities and the like, even transportation for their “workers” to and from work. These kind of things would be viewed by CRA as “taxable benefits” to employees and the fair market value of which would be considered part of the employees’ compensation. These kind of things can’t be cheap, and could dramatically skew the compensation of the workers.

Is someone who is receiving pay of less than minimum (in actual cash), but also receiving $30,000 worth of taxable benefits “underpaid”?

If Cosmo was a for-profit enterprise they could simply pay minimum wage (at least) and forgo all of those “taxable benefits”. But then the recipients of those benefits would have to get them somewhere else, and probably pay for them out of their own pockets.



2 thoughts on “Cosmo

    1. sksimon Post author

      Still doesn’t answer some of my questions. Why is the value of the taxable benefits being excluded? People keep saying they are employees subject to the exemption in the labour act. But based on their charitable return, Canada Revenue is not counting them as employees? Why? Either they are or they are not. CRA doesn’t have to use provincial legislation to determine if someone is an employee or not, but it is a guide. If they are not employees, then they aren’t even covered by the provincial labour act. What’s the alternative? Pay full wage and cancel all the benefits? If they get a full wage, what is the clawback on any social assistance they are receiving?

      I don’t have any answers, just more questions.



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