The president of the New Zealand Council of Trade Unions, Helen Kelly, has revealed she has lung cancer.

Ms Kelly, who is a non-smoker and has never smoked, told delegates in an email that her diagnosis was confirmed by doctors this week, and she would be undergoing "lots of additional tests".

The extent and nature of the cancer was not yet known. "The hospital rang and they have confirmed I do have a lung cancer," she said in her email.

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"Nothing else is confirmed and I now have to have lots of additional tests and they have to test them etc etc. There is no confirmation of where else it might be or any prognosis.

"I have a string of appointments now and I hope by 9 March to have a plan of some sort."

Ms Kelly, who has been CTU president since 2007, will continue in her role, saying she felt "remarkably well, all things considered".

"I am writing this to you because rumours of my demise are exaggerated and I want to keep you all informed without the rumours," she said in her email.

The former teacher said she was "looking after myself", and thanked union delegates for their "beautiful support this week".

"It has been amazing."

Yesterday she criticised the rise in the minimum wage for adults would increase from $14.25 to $14.75 an hour.

"The mean-spirited increase announced means thousands of hard working families facing another year of struggling to make ends meet."


She said the increase would barely cover the loss of two 10 minute tea breaks from March 6.

"Over 300,000 workers are now on or near the minimum wage as collective bargaining rights have been decimated, insecure work arrangements have become widespread and unfettered migration has been allowed to flood low paid, low skill work areas," she said.