CTU chief praised by country's leaders

  • 14/10/2015
Helen Kelly (3 News/Briar Marbeck)
Helen Kelly (3 News/Briar Marbeck)

By Paul Purcell

New Zealand union boss Helen Kelly has been praised from left and right as she prepares to step down as the head of the Council of Trade Unions.

The union boss was diagnosed with lung cancer in February, but says she wants to remain active when she leaves full-time union work on Wednesday.

Prime Minister John Key said Ms Kelly has always been good to work with despite their political divide.

"I've found her really good to deal with, she's straight forward," he told reporters.

"You'd appreciate there's often quite a divide between what I might particularly think of an issue and what she might think, but she was always respectful of that and obviously we are very saddened by her own personal situation."

Meanwhile Labour leader Andrew Little, who will speak at the CTU conference on Wednesday, said she has made a difference throughout her tenure as CTU boss.

"She's made a huge contribution, you look at her achievements in raising awareness about health and safety," he said.

"Whether it's in forestry or Pike River and I think giving a lot of union members and workers who aren't in unions a sense that they do have a voice, they do have rights, and they're something worth fighting for."

Former Public Service Association national secretary Richard Wagstaff is poised to take over the leadership of the CTU when Ms Kelly steps down on Wednesday.