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Germany’s biggest union to elect first woman as leader

By AFP - May 17,2023 - Last updated at May 17,2023

This file photo taken on January 16, 2018 shows the Deputy Chairman of German metalworkers’ union IG Metall Christiane Benner as she attends the union’s annual news conference in Frankfurt am Main, western Germany (AFP photo)

FRANKFURT, Germany — German industrial union IG Metall, one of the most powerful unions in Europe, proposed on Tuesday to appoint its first woman as leader as it continues its fight to protect workers against inflation.

Christiane Benner, 55, is currently the union’s vice president and will be officially voted in as president at a congress in October, IG Metall said in a statement.

The proposal reflects “IG Metall’s ambition to shape a social, ecological and democratic transformation of the industrial and craft sectors we represent”, said Joerg Hofmann, the union’s outgoing president.

Hofmann, who has headed the union since 2015, is not standing for re-election. 

In an interview with the Sueddeutsche newspaper on Tuesday, Benner said IG Metall was “becoming much more feminine”, with 26 per cent of its managers now women. 

A sociologist by training, Benner rose through the union’s ranks after working at a mechanical engineering company.

She is in favour of a four-day working week and backs tax increases for the wealthy. 

One of the world’s largest unions, IG Metall represents workers in key sectors of Europe’s biggest economy, including the automotive, machine tool and electronics industries.

In November, it secured an 8.5 per cent pay rise for around four million workers to help compensate for persistent inflation in Germany. 

Inflation has cooled slightly in recent months but remained elevated in April at 7.2 per cent. 

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