Skip to main content

Helen Kelly

ITF general secretary Steve Cotton and ITF president Paddy Crumlin have spoken of the loss to workers and trade unionists of Helen Kelly, former president of New Zealand’s Council of Trade Unions (CTU).


Steve Cotton stated: “Helen Kelly was a deserved figurehead of New Zealand trade unionism, from which she has been taken at the tragically young age of 52. She was a very human person, and genuinely inspirational. Everyone who met Helen came away inspired by what trade unions can achieve.

Helen delivered her own epitaph, in a last television interview that was shown at her memorial service: "We're a values-based movement which will never change those values – better wages, safer conditions, respect and dignity at work,’ she said. ‘I want people just to be kind. It would make a hell of a difference’.”

That clarity of purpose was typical of Helen. She died as she lived, fighting all the way.

Paddy Crumlin observed: “Helen remained dignified to the very end. She was acutely aware of the tremendously demanding challenges to unions and workers not just in her own country but around the world.

In the Ports of Auckland dispute there wasn’t anybody  more committed or more determined to get those wharfies back in the gate.

After being diagnosed with cancer, Helen faced up to it with such courage and determination and remained dignified and always accepting of the great difficulties.

Helen is a great loss to the movement, a great loss to her family, and also our holistic campaign to create a more decent and functional world."

Read the following obituary of Helen by CTU president Richard Wagstaff: