President of the New Zealand Council of Trade Unions (2007-2015) Helen Kelly has died after a battle with cancer. Kelly was an influential leader of the trade union movement who fought for the rights of workers in education, forestry, farming and the film industry among many others. Kelly also supported the campaign against zero-hour contracts. A number of politicians and union leaders have led the tributes to Kelly after her passing on the 14th of October.
“Helen lived her commitment to fairness and justice every day. She was generous, creative, innovative, inspired and determined. She dreamed big and worked hard – and we’re a better country for her achievements.
People from around the world are now remembering how Helen inspired and empowered them to make their working lives better.”
- Richard Wagstaff, Council of Trade Unions President.
“Helen had a wonderful capacity to see the big picture in the day-to-day life of people. This gave her an extraordinary ability to work with people and understand how their struggles translated into wider political campaigns and policy. The Labour Party lost today a member who contributed at every level, from the practical tasks of organising local pamphlet deliveries to the determination of major policy.”
- Nigel Haworth, Labour Party President.
“Helen never gave up fighting for working people from every sector – whether they be education staff battling for better working conditions, or saving the lives of forestry workers by advocating for improved health and safety protections. Helen dedicated her entire career to improving the working lives of others.
E te whaea Helen. Te tangi o te ngākau. Aue, aue...taukiri e! Moe mai ra, arohanui.”
- Angela Roberts, PPTA President.
“Helen was an exceptional New Zealander – a force to be reckoned with who always stood up for the people who have the least.
Whether it was her never-ending crusade for workers’ rights, for pay equity, for the families of forestry and farm workers and the Pike River miners, or, latterly, for access to medicinal cannabis for people in pain, she was unafraid of speaking truth to power.”
- Metiria Turei, Green Party Co-leader.
“Helen Kelly was the first person, after the border control officers, I met when I arrived in New Zealand two and a half years ago. I was jaded and tired after the trip from the UK but I left the airport totally re-energised after my first conversation with Helen.
Helen was committed and passionate about health and safety. She was a constant presence, sometimes a critic and sometimes a supporter but without a doubt always intent on making life healthier and safer for people at work.”
- Gordon MacDonald, WorkSafe New Zealand Chief Executive.