In the light of the labour market reforms currently being carried out in Europe, the symposium “From social competition to social dumping. The workers’ right to human dignity at stake”, organized by Prof. Dr Marc Rigaux of the University of Antwerp on 20–21 November 2014, could not have come at a better time.
The changes in labour law and labour law policy at the European level may be affecting the workers’ right to dignity in employment relations, whose origins, in terms of law, date back to the nineteenth century. It is my belief that respect for the principle of human dignity is of the utmost importance if we want to avoid the negative effects of these labour law reforms on workers’ standard of living.
In this contribution, I will focus on the principle of human dignity as laid down in the Charter of Fundamental Rights and in the Treaties of the European Union. I will also refer to declarations or background documents of related legislation in the Union.
I will end this contribution by emphasizing the need to incorporate human dignity as a transversal principle of labour law and the exercise of fundamental rights and the Community freedoms derived from it. To this end, I will argue that the dignity of workers must be a dogmatic concept to be used against the economy-oriented theories that are reshaping the workers’ rights, and also that the value of human dignity is intrinsic to the economic liberties presented in the constitutional treaties of the European Union.
HUMAN DIGNITY IN THE CHARTER OF FUNDAMENTAL RIGHTS OF THE EUROPEAN UNION
In the preamble to the Charter, human dignity is referred to as one of the indivisible, universal values upon which the Union is founded. By establishing the citizenship of the Union and by creating an area of freedom, security and justice, it (and I quote) “places the individual at the heart of its activities”.
Not only do these foundations possess supporting or legitimizing characteristics, they also govern the actions of the Union. In other words, they constitute the criteria and guidelines for the actions of the EU institutions.