Heroes on the front line: Warren Jones, Allan Butterfield, Otis Minors
While most of us are safe at home during the Covid-19 pandemic, essential workers put their lives at risk to keep Bermuda going. The Royal Gazette salutes these selfless men and women in hospitals, supermarkets, delivery vans, gas stations and other key services with our new series
“Quietly powering Bermuda” is their motto — but the dock-workers who maintain the flow of goods into Bermuda sometimes think it is a thankless task.
Staff at Stevedoring Services, who are still at work on Hamilton docks while the coronavirus pandemic keeps others at home, said in normal times that they only got noticed by the public if they took industrial action.
Warren Jones, the chief executive of parent firm Polaris Holding Company, said, because stevedores' essential work goes on behind the scenes, that “staff have felt a little left out”.
Mr Jones added that he split work from home with time on the docks as a show of solidarity with his staff. He said: “It's a stressful time. It's very stressful for them, leaving their families at home and coming to work when everyone else is inside.”
Mr Jones admitted it was sometimes a worry for his wife when he ventured from home over the shelter in place restrictions.
But he said: “I make sure to spend part of the day on the docks so they see I am part of the team. We are in this with them.”
Mr Jones added that the routine on the docks had remained much the same despite the pandemic, but only half the staff work on any given day as a safety precaution. He explained: “The last thing we can afford is to have one person infected and then the entire workforce in quarantine.”
Mr Jones said personal protective equipment such as masks and gloves, the sanitising of hands and equipment and strict social-distancing were enforced as soon as the alert was raised. He added: “No one could say that there's been a drop-off in service. That gives me a great sense of pride in our staff.”
Allan Butterfield, a deck man, said his job swung into high gear when cargo ships docked.
He said; “My job is to go on to the ship and give the crane operators signals. I am the crane operators' eyes.”
Mr Butterfield and his colleagues were classed as essential workers over the crisis — but he said they were all the time.
He added: “It's not even just because of a time like this. It's every day, every year. Without us, Bermuda can't eat.”
Mr Butterfield said some of the work had “slowed a bit” under the split-shifts system and admitted he worried about his oldest son, who was stranded in Orlando, Florida, when the pandemic halted air and sea travel to the island. He added: “It's going to be a while.”
Mr Butterfield highlighted that there was no contact between dock-workers and the crews of ships that docked.
He said he expected the public were grateful for the work on the docks. Mr Butterfield added: “I guess they are. The only time they recognise us is when we put down our tools.”
Otis Minors, the president of the port workers division of the Bermuda Industrial Union, said he would celebrate 18 years at Stevedoring Services next month. He said a working day could have him clocking on in the morning or working through the night, depending on the shipping schedule.
Mr Minors said his family were worried at first about him catching the virus. He added: “I had to explain it's just me. I'm not in contact with too many people throughout a day.”
Mr Minors said he took pride knowing that dock-workers were “powering Bermuda”, adding: “It's very essential. We don't get the respect that we should.”
Mr Minors said panic buying as restrictions were imposed had failed to take account of the dependability of dockers. He added: “There's no need for anyone to make a big rush, as long as we are working and the staff are still coming in. When you see us not working, that's the time to worry.”