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Working people mourn Helen Kelly – a statement from CTU President Richard Wagstaff

“Today New Zealand mourns the loss of union leader Helen Kelly. She was a fighter who died after a battle with cancer.

Helen died too young, and will always be remembered in our hearts, minds and on the frontlines of the fight for everyday working people.

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.

When people were killed at work in the forestry sector Helen was there as a compassionate friend and relentless changemaker. She succeeded.

Helen worked with the West Coast community for justice ever since 29 miners were needlessly killed at Pike River. She campaigned to stop the reckless abuses of safety laws and best practices.

Helen fought for a better working life for all, especially those who found it hard to make ends meet. Her principled stance empowered people in the film industry to speak up together with one clear voice for a fair return on their work.

Helen stood shoulder to shoulder with working people, forging tight and loyal friendships wherever she went. Helen’s leadership was valued both nationally and internationally. Her quick and strategic thinking set the course for expanding the rights of working people here and abroad.

Helen has left a wonderful legacy that will inspire working people and their unions into the future.

Her death is such a loss to all of us here at the CTU and throughout the union movement.

Our thoughts and love are with Helen’s husband Steve and son Dylan. Please respect their privacy. We will make details of a celebration of Helen’s life available as they come to hand.”


A short timeline of Helen Kelly

1964 – Born September 19th in Wellington to Pat & Catherine Kelly

1983 – 1986 – Wellington teachers College

1988 – Primary School teacher

1990 – First union official job – half time with the Kindergarten Association and half time with the Early Childhood Workers Union

1998 – NZEI Assistant Secretary

2002 – National Secretary of the Association of University Staff (now the Tertiary Education Union)

2008 – Elected CTU President

2011 – 2014 – Elected to the International Labor Organisation governing body as a worker representative. Re-elected on 2 June 2014 for the 2014 – 2017 term.

2015, October – Stood down as CTU President


For further comment please contact

CTU President Richard Wagstaff – 027 277 8131

Other media enquires can be directed to

Communications Advisor, Kate Drury – 021 068 1910