Re­mem­ber­ing He­len Kelly a ‘spe­cial lady’

South Waikato News - - Out & About - TE AHUA MAIT­LAND

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.

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