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Junior Maynard Dill: A different kind of animal

Never short of words: Junior Maynard Dill, right, pictured with Diallo Rabain

Young man, I have two questions for you.”

“Yes sir, what are those questions?”

“First question: Who do you support for Cup Match?”

“St George’s, of course.”

“Ok fine, good answer. Second question: are you a different kind of animal?

“Different kind of animal? What is that?”

“Well, quite frankly, if you expect to survive in the Powerhouse you will have to become a different kind of animal.”

Thus went the first conversation between myself and someone who went on to achieve legendary status within the halls of Belco, community organisations, the Bermudian trade union movement and local politics.

There will be hundreds, if not thousands, of stories told about him over the next few weeks and years. Some will speak of him from a community context, some from a trade union context and some from a political context.

For me, however, my lens of this person was formed from a Belco workplace viewpoint.

To put things in proper context, one would have to understand that working shift work in 100-degree heat, 365 days per year, is what we do. We work holidays, weekends and hurricanes; nothing but nothing will stop us from getting to work and performing our duties in order to provide Bermuda with the power it needs.

Junior Maynard Dill, commonly known as Maynard, was an imposing figure in physical stature, which was complemented by his verbosity. There will be not one person who truly knew him that could say he was a man short of words. Not being one who minced his words, Maynard had quite a unique skill for making conversations a challenge.

One of our co-workers, Simon Hendrickson, captured it best, saying: “Many times I told myself, “I KNOW I’m right” but he had a way of making you doubt yourself.”

Another co-worker Alex Dowling stated: “The funny thing about him was that if you happened to be in an argument with him even if you were right somehow you ended up being wrong. Never could understand this! LOL”

Quite frankly Maynard could cause the Pope to speak like a fisherman in a storm.

However, he was not a man devoid of actions to match his words.

When Maynard joined Belco in 1984, roughly 60 per cent of the Powerhouse was Bermudian. He repeated often throughout the years: “I long to see the day that we have 100 per cent Bermudianisation because I know Bermudians are fully capable of doing the work.”

Somewhere around mid-1994, Maynard became the president of the ESTU (Electricity Supply Trade Union). Along his newly formed executive, he set about an agenda for evolution that focused not only on Belco workers’ rights and benefits but more importantly on training and progression.

Over the course of a few years, the new ESTU executive saw gains in the fields of: improved safety, paternity leave, more sociable working hours for shift workers, burial benefits, interest-based bargaining and an ESTU scholarship. Additionally, he was instrumental in helping to form the Bermuda Trade Union Congress (BTUC).

Along the way, Maynard and his executive forged better working relationships with Belco management which helped to improve both productivity and profit rates formulating a win-win scenario for both workers and management. From a macro level, Belco became the new yardstick by which employer/employee relations are now measured.

On a micro level, Maynard oversaw the implementation of structured training programmes for all industrial staff to improve their skill sets; skills that were applicable both on and off the job. Countless numbers of my fellow co-workers took advantage of these programmes, empowering them to advance as older employees retired.

Their moving up the ladder created space for other Bermudians to be hired in their place. The subsequent effect was that after 30 years, Belco’s industrial workforce had gone from about 60 per cent Bermudian to about 99 per cent Bermudian.

Maynard’s dream had been fulfilled.

At Belco, we are equipped to deal with any and all forms of difficult situations from hurricanes to massive oil spills. Yet there are some things we are not equipped for.

On Saturday September 3, 2016, as the news broke across the island of Maynard’s passing, it seemed as if the entire Powerhouse was going to bang their heads up against the generators in shock, sadness and sorrow. Grown men who have worked in the harshest of conditions openly wept and hugged each other for support as we found out Maynard was no longer with us.

When one works with someone for most of their lives they are not simply your co-workers — they are indeed your family.

Maynard Dill: Father, husband, grandfather, Union president, community activist, PLP chairman …. most of all “a different kinda animal”, in his signature quote: “Etcetera, etcetera, etcetera!”