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Labor relations

Reiner Hoffmann new head of Germany's trade union umbrella organization

Germany's Trade Union Confederation (DGB) has elected a long-serving European labor activist as the new head of the powerful organization. He said a more stringent minimum wage deal would be high on his agenda.

The new chief of the DGB, 58-year-old Reiner Hoffmann, garnered an overwhelming majority of votes Monday to become the head of a powerful umbrella organization that manages German trade unions' relationships with government authorities, political parties and employers' associations. Hoffmann succeeded Michael Sommer, who was at the helm of the DGB for 12 years.

The DGB comprises eight different sectoral industrial unions, all of which supported Hoffmann's candidacy. They're expecting him to make a push for a more social European Union. Hoffmann, who had already made a name for himself in various union organizations at the pan-European level, ran unopposed for the DGB's top job.

Raising the DGB's clout

Hoffmann said he was aiming to make the DGB more attractive to young people, and so recruit more members.

What the minimum wage means for German firms

He also made it clear that he would fight for a quicker implementation of a German national minimum wage of 8.50 euros ($11.75) per hour. The government's current plan is to phase it in over the next three years.

Experts said the DGB chief would also have to try to fix a flaw in current union bargaining arrangements. Under the current system, small unions are sometimes able to cripple the operations of big companies by aggressive strike action, even if a majority of employees aren't supportive of demands voiced by a small minority of union activists.

hg/js (dpa, Reuters)

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