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Business

Germany's powerful metalworkers elect new union boss

Delegates to an IG Metall trade union congress have overwhelmingly endorsed Detlef Wetzel as their new union boss. The 60-year old labor leader has successfully engineered reforms at Europe’s biggest labor union.

Former IG Metall vice chairman Detlef Wetzel was elected as the new metalworking union leader on Monday, after receiving 333 votes, or 75.5 percent of ballots, from the 458 delegates to the trade union congress.

Wetzel takes over from Berthold Huber, who has led Europe's biggest labor union for the past six years. Wetzel was Huber's right-hand man in a reform drive aimed at rejuvenating IG Metall's image and halting a decline in membership.

The 60-year-old Wetzel opened the metalworker's union to employees in more modern industrial sectors such as information technology and renewable energies, as well as boosting IG Metall representation in industry-related services.

Moreover, Wetzel successfully slashed red tape and the workforce at the union headquarters, freeing up funds and staff for recruiting new members.

As a result, IG Metall membership has stabilized at 2.26 million members after a decade of steadily declining numbers in the 1990s.

Following his election, Wetzel said he wanted to strengthen labor participation at company level as well as have more democracy in political decision-making.

uhe/tj (Reuters, AFP, dpa)