Helen Kelly – a fearless campaigner and a fine New Zealander. 

Helen Kelly, the trade unionist who died yesterday after a brave and public battle with cancer, never shirked a fight.

She campaigned tirelessly for safe workplaces, advocated vigorously for women’s rights and employment equity, and was always willing to embrace unpopular causes and confront sacred cows.

Her courage made her a valuable asset to the union movement, and gave workers’ groups political momentum when their ranks thinned through economic change and workplace transformation.

Her qualities earned her respect too from those on the other side of the negotiating table because employers and industry leaders came to recognise a woman with fierce intelligence and tactical skill.

Kelly’s style favoured issues over individuals. “I’m just not into these personality politics,” she told the Weekend Herald this year during a break in treatment for her incurable cancer. “I think values matter.” NZ Herald 

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