Remembering Helen Kelly a ‘special lady’
Helen Kelly guided Maryanne Butler-finlay through her grief after her husband’s death in a Tokoroa forestry block three years ago. Now Helen Kelly is gone, too.
The union leader died of lung cancer on Friday morning in Wellington.
On July 19, 2013, Charles Finlay died after being struck by a log at a forestry site near Kinleith, near Tokoroa.
He was the sixth of 10 forestry fatalities in 2013.
‘‘We felt left in the dark. So through a family member, we were told there was a lady, if I wanted to, that would like to talk to me,’’ Butler-finlay said.
The pair met the weekend after her husband’s funeral. They formed a strong bond.
‘‘Basically, she came to see us, and she never left our side.
‘‘She was all about the working person, and the rights of the working person. She was a very, very special lady and this has knocked the core out of us.’’
‘‘It was more than a friendship, she was whanau.’’
As president for the Council of Trade Unions (CTU), Kelly fought hard with the Butler-finlays for justice.
CTU launched a private prosecution after Worksafe New Zealand declined to press charges. The CTU believed Finlay’s death was the result of poor health and safety practices.
In October 2015, Finlay’s employer, M&A Cross, was ordered to pay $130,000 after earlier pleading guilty to breaching safety law in the Rotorua District Court.
Two weeks ago, Butler-finlay spent time with Kelly and her family in Wellington.
‘‘We spent a considerable time with her right towards the end. It was a privilege to be with her.
‘‘She is a very important person to my family - my twin daughters, my son and his partner.’’
Kelly also supported the families of the Pike River mine disaster, stood up to farmers offering jobs below the minimum wage and fought for access to medicinal marijuana.
She was against zero-hour contracts and was fearless when speaking on behalf of union members.
In 2014, Kelly considered standing for the Labour Party in the election, but never got the chance after being diagnosed with incurable cancer in February 2015.
Helen Kelly formed a strong friendship with Tokoroa woman Maryanne Butler-finlay after her husband was killed.