Hassine Abassi was born in 1949 in Sbikha, a small peasant village within the province of Kairouan in the centre of Tunisia. He was brought up by his father, a small farmer, after his mother’s death when he was still an infant.
- He began his professional career as a teacher and then a high school principal.
- He is married and has four children.
His trade union activities:
He started his trade union activity in 1973 as a member of the basic trade union of school supervisors, then a member of the regional union of school supervisors and principals in 1983. Then, he became a member of the General Union of school supervisors and principals.
In 1997, he was elected as a member of the Regional Union of Kairouan to become in 2003, its Secretary General.
In December 2006, he was elected as a member of the national executive bureau of the General Union of Tunisian Workers, (UGTT), in the national congress held in the city of Monastir. He was assigned the department of legislation and industrial disputes. Later, he became the acting deputy Secretary General in charge of researches and documentation. He held both positions until the following congress held in December 2011 in the city of Tabarka when he was elected Secretary General of the UGTT.
He is today a standing member of the Executive Bureau and the General Council of the International Trade Union Confederation as UGTT’s Secretary-General and the President of the Arab Trade Unions Confederation.
The stances he took:
Hassine Abbassi has been known for his committed stances and his support to freedom-seekers and democracy-lovers since he was the Secretary General of the Regional Labor Union of Kairouan, where he was the most prominent supporters of the Tunisian League for Human Rights, the Tunisian Bar Association and the Tunisian Judges Association as components of the Tunisian civil society that were the most persecuted Tunisian NGOs during the rule of the former regime because of the fierce battle for their independence and their fight for individual and public liberties.
He was also one of the most prominent supporters of the mining basin uprising in 2008. He was an outspoken leader within the UGTT and he had always insisted to attend the various rallies and demonstrations to support the protesters and to back them up during the different trials that had targeted them.
He defended fiercely the independence of the UGTT’s decision-making process. He was also devoted to his dialectic correlation between social and national issues, as he usually repeats:”No one is able to determine the area where UGTT should operate, no one will tame us and we will never give up supporting the causes of justice, freedom and social justice.”
After the revolution of Freedom of December 17 and 14 January, he has been working on two arenas:
The Social arena:
He was the head of the delegation, who led the negotiation for the elimination of the informal labour which resulted in an agreement with the government to abolish subcontracting in the civil service and the public sector as well as the integration of those working in subcontracting companies within the civil service and the public sector. He also sought to establish good relations with social partners. This culminated in the signing of a social contract within the National Constituent Assembly under the auspices of the International Labour Organization. This social contract defines the basic components to establish a permanent and liable social dialogue.
He has always been keen to personally intervene to overcome the difficulties and settle social problems that encounters the course of negotiations with successive governments and the Tunisian Union of Industry, Commerce and Handicrafts, UTICA, which has helped alleviate social tensions.
During his term as Secretary General, he sponsored the signing of the first Framework agreement for the workers of the agricultural sector, which will help secure the rights of a large segment of agricultural workers who are deprived of the most basic social rights.
The political arena:
He led with a great and an outstanding competence the initiative launched by the Tunisian General Labour Union, UGTT, to help Tunisia get out of the crisis it had experienced following the elections of October 23, 2011. He was the main manager of the National Dialogue, which was composed of a Quartet that included alongside the Tunisian General Labour Union, UGTT, the Tunisian Union of Industry, Commerce and Handicrafts, UTICA, the Tunisian National Bar Association and the Tunisian League for Human Rights. Which allowed Tunisia to achieve the main objectives of the transitional process such as the drafting and the adoption of the Constitution, the promulgation of the Elections Act and the establishment of the High Independence Instances of Elections which will pave the way to legislative and presidential elections which were, according to many observers, transparent and democratic. His intervention with the most important political parties was extremely decisive as he succeeded in getting their views close for the paramount interest of Tunisia.
Hassine Abassi was among the leaders who were on a list of terrorist groups that have targeted him over the last few years. He has been since then under heavy security protection which was extended to reach his family and his residence.
Hassine Abassi was awarded, with the Tunisian National Dialogue Quartet, the Nobel Peace Prize in 2015.