An activist for public education
Former president of the New Zealand Council of Trade Unions Helen Kelly is remembered with fondness and respect by NZEI Te Riu Roa. Kelly died last year on October 14,…
Former president of the New Zealand Council of Trade Unions Helen Kelly is remembered with fondness and respect by NZEI Te Riu Roa.
Kelly died last year on October 14, aged 52.
As a former teacher, Kelly was a strong advocate for public education. In September, 2015 she was made an Honorary Fellow of NZEI for her enormous contribution to the goal of quality public education in New Zealand.
Kelly started her career as a primary school teacher in Johnsonville, where she was made a union delegate on her first day in the job and in 1993 she became the co-ordinator of the NZEI/Combined Early Childhood Union of Aotearoa general election campaign.
She played a prominent role in the primary pay parity campaign of the 1990s and continued the fight into the next decade on pay parity for kindergarten teachers.
In 2002, Kelly was appointed General Secretary of the Association of University Staff – now the Tertiary Education Union.
In the last few months of her life, Kelly was actively engaging on social media to support the joint NZEI-PPTA Better Funding, Better Learning campaign.
In her years as President of the CTU, Kelly played the pivotal role in causing this government to agree to a massive review of our Health and Safety laws.
She was close to the families of those tragically lost in the Pike River disaster and those who have lost their lives in our forests. She also put the spotlight on the poor health and safety record and working conditions of farm workers.
She advocated for the rights of workers internationally and took a leading role in many of the debates and negotiations at the International Labour Organisation.
On her death she was lauded by those near and far – by unions, employer groups, parliamentary leaders from all sides of the political spectrum and international organisations.
Kelly’s determination and unswerving commitment to social justice and fairness hasn’t gone unnoticed.
President of the New Zealand Council of Trade Unions Richard Wagstaff said that it was important to remember that Kelly chose to be a trade union member, activist, and leader because she saw unions as embodying the values she believed in and because she saw trade unions as the best way to advance these values.