Farewell, John Ryall

We bid farewell to John Ryall, our Assistant National Secretary, who has retired after a stellar 42 years with the trade union movement.

John has stood with our members, their families, and their communities in their fight for justice, at the bargaining table, on the picket line, and in the halls of Parliament.

John knows members are the union and it is workers’ stories that give power to our collective voice. John is loved and respected across our union movement, holding a special place in the hearts of our members, especially Pasifika, tangata whenua, and health sector workers with whom he has worked so closely.

John’s astonishing record of court wins and imaginative new ways of organising has made him a trade union legend, his member-led kaupapa honed during years as a delegate, then later an organiser with the Hotel and Hospital Workers Union, where he began his career as an official in 1982.

John was instrumental in the equal pay court case with Kristine Bartlett, which eventually resulted in the more than $2 billion settlement for care and support workers. This is one victory among many. John’s strategic thinking steered the union to many wins despite hostile governments. He was central to the recent success for in-between travel payments, sleepover pay, guaranteed hours for home support workers, and basic rights for labour hire workers.

John initiated the conversation in 2011 about the Living Wage as a mechanism for putting pressure on government, which funded the poverty wages of so many of our members. He remained part of its governance as it became an independent movement of civil society organisations and a game changer for decent wages.

“The thing was to get unions to take a wider approach to winning support, to modernise by looking beyond their worksites, and to embrace their communities, including their churches, their wider whanau, even their sports clubs,” says E tū President Muriel Tunoho.

In 2019, John concluded his role on the Government’s Fair Pay Agreement Working Party, which is advocating for a return to minimum industry or occupational group standards and now E tū will take up the baton to campaign for legislation and implementation.

John’s belief in the merger of our two big private sector unions was critical to our success as E tū and he leaves us with a vision, with hope, and with an organisation in good heart.

John’s lifetime of commitment to the working class of Aotearoa will continue and the friendships and alliances will remain. While he is retiring, he has told us he is still here to help. So, John, our hope is that we’ll still be standing tall with you, as we campaign for the Living Wage, for equal pay, and a fair deal for our members. Enjoy your retirement – you’ve earned it.

Ehara taku toa i te toa takitahi, engari taku toa he toa takitini.

My strength does not come from the individual, instead it comes from the multitudes.