Gleaner Editors' Forum | Kavan Gayle: Passionate about trade unionism
A fresh-faced schoolboy in March of 1986, 17-year-old Kavan Gayle was seeking only work experience before undertaking tertiary studies, but would instead stumble into a lasting career. Thirty-two years onwards and the now 50-year-old who started as an administrative assistant at the Bustamante Industrial Trade Union (BITU) is in his 10th year at the helm of the organisation and was conferred with the Order of Distinction in the Rank of Commander for his contribution to the trade union movement and public service yesterday.
"I started off doing clerical duties, but when you see the people like Hugh Shearer, Lascelles Beckford, Lloyd Francis, Dwight Nelson, Ruddy Spencer going out and anchoring these issues I said, "Boy, I want to be a union officer. I don't want to stay in the office, this thing is boring'," Gayle recounted during a Gleaner Editors' Forum at the company's North Street offices last Thursday.
"One day, I went around to Mr Lascelles Beckford's Office and said, 'Mr Beckford, I want to be a union officer' and he laughed at me saying 'you too young. If you want to be a union officer, you have to have a passion for it,' and that resonated with me. I didn't become a union officer until four years after that, but in doing so the officer use to sneak me out of the office and carry me to meetings and so I developed this passion over the years," he added.
A scholarship recipient, he would go on to further his studies in Israel and later, the National Labour College in Maryland. He returned and continued his rise through the ranks of the BITU.
And while, by his own admission, trade unionism has sometimes proven to be an unkind profession, Gayle, also a government senator, says he will continue to serve the BITU for the foreseeable future.
"For me, the BITU was/is like a another university. You learn from those around you, you learn from the officers, you learn from the long-standing delegates because it (trade unionism) is something you have to practice. While there is further training in terms of the academic component of it, the know-how, the hands on experience is the most critical part of it," Gayle reasoned.
"You also have to be committed, because you get verbal abuse from those who you represent sometimes.
You get verbal abuse from who is across the table also. So, it takes real commitment. That's what has kept me in the movement," he added.
Committed to continue
"And as long as I am able to offer, I'm committed to continuing. I also encourage young people to either join the trade union, belong to a trade union or work for a trade union for the continuity of unionism," he contended.
The father of two sons also sits on a number of public boards, all in the name of giving back service.
Among them, the National Housing Trust, HEART Trust NTA, and the Overseas Examination Commission.
"Those boards touch the social lives of people- housing and education. So, I am glad that I was able to serve on those boards that promote a social dimension to give back to the lives of individuals," he shared.