Substantial equality of workers as a condition for freedom

Authors Marcelo Maciel Ramos, Pedro Augusto Gravatá Nicoli

ISSN: 2413-9874
Affiliations: Professor of Law in the Law School of Universidade Federal Minas Gerais (UFMG), Brazil; Professor of Law in the Law School of Universidade Federal Minas Gerais (UFMG), Brazil
Source: Industrial Law Journal, Volume 37 Issue 3, 2016, p. 1523 – 1536


The balance between freedom and equality remains at the very core of labour law. In capitalist societies, where alienation and exploitation of human work is a fundamental element, a legal system that aims to equalise the parties and to guarantee their freedom mitigates the asymmetric nature of the relationship between workers and employers. Nevertheless, in a world with extraordinary rates of poverty and inequality, the meaning of equality and freedom gains multiple layers and new ambiguities. One has to consider as a premise that the current world of work is one of the main loci for the reproduction of inequality and forms of oppression. Most workers are in some kind of vulnerable relationship in the world, many in a position of extreme poverty. As these ‘marginalised’ workers are so predominant, they have become progressively the main issue in labour regulation. Is labour law an adequate arena for fighting inequality, oppression and exclusion? This article aims to rekindle the debate over the meaning of freedom in the fragmented realities of work, going beyond its formal enunciation and taking into account the multiple and persistent inequalities that may prevent its actual experience by workers.