“So long as you are ready to die for your Country, the life of our Country is immortal” - Mazzini
SBIOA - The Saviour and Protector of the Supervising and Managerial staff viz, officers of the State Bank of India was formed in 1965. It gave the officers freedom of association / assembly and expression under the rule of law, the indestructible building blocks of Trade Union Movement. Earlier the officers were sandwiched between the inhuman management and militant subordinates. The problems confronted by officers were loss of identity and dignity both as individual officials and as a group; they were groaning under frustration and indignities, increasing responsibilities, more volume of work, unlimited hours of work, less and less leisure hours, inability to fulfill family and social obligations, falling standard of living due to retrograde compensation system, eroding wage differentials between themselves and their subordinates, and host of other inequities which made life miserable. There was no incentive to take higher responsibilities. A feeling of alienation / helplessness was looming large in the face of draconian, stringent and straightjacket service / conduct rules and regulations. The lack of opportunity for professional advancements, absence of job security, punitive action without any right of appeal and denial of principles of natural justice were the sum and substance of the sufferings of officers. The “Master & Servant” relationship and the management’s power to “hire and fire” even after the nationalization of State Bank of India in 1955 greatly demoralized officers
The discontent among the officers rumbled like molten lava waiting for an opportunity to come out. Secret meetings held at different places and circulars issued under the banner of “Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Officers”, kindled the inborn desire for freedom. The longing for unity and solidarity made the various Associations of Head Cashiers, Sub-Accountants, Staff Assistants & Staff Officers to merge and by the untiring efforts of Shri K. Santhanakrishnan and other senior officers, the SBI Supervising Staff Association (Madras Circle) was founded in the early sixties and was registered under Trade Unions Act 1926 as was applied for on the 14th August 1965. We owe a deep debt of gratitude to these pioneers of Officers’ Movement in Madras Circle. The immediate reaction of the Management to the Officers’ Trade Union was hostile. The Management even dismissed with contempt the formation treating it to be a “petition making” body. But emboldened by this formation and disregarding the adverse reaction of the Management similar associations were formed in 3 Circles of State Bank viz., Bombay, Delhi and Culcutta. These four circles federated to form the All India State Bank Supervising Staff Federation, which is presently named as All India State Bank officers Federation.
After this consolidation at the apex level, the federation and the association slowly started exerting pressure on the Management, first for recognition as the sole bargaining agent and for establishing bilateral relationship. Even though the supervisory and the managerial employees were specifically excluded from the industrial law by the Government, the Officers of the Bank used all ingenuities to secure recognition from this group of professional workers, through a series of industrial actions. The effectiveness of workers’ trade unions within the system, their different styles, methods, pressure weapons, the strategy and tactics all influenced the Association to be more militant. There were removal of ties, work to rule, mass casual leave and many other forms of agitation. The Management also let loose terror in the form of victimized transfers, suspensions and charge sheets. Despite the stiff resistance from top management the Associations/ Federation eventually established themselves after the historic 17 days of total strike, all over the country in June 1969. The issue for the strike was the right of officers to form trade Union to collectively represent and right for Trade Union action and immunity from individual accountability for collective actions. Even after series of struggles these rights have not been legally conferred. With the show of strength some sort of mutual adjustment operate in the bank without the force of law. The State Bank Officers’ strike in 1969 was a shot in the arms of managerial and professional employee’s movement in India and all over the world. The management’s unleashing fear psychosis of victimization, loss of employment and such other forms of covert and overt intimidation that still continues, many battles were won and we are confident that we will win ultimately. The emergence of officers’ organization is tolerated on a limited scale but constantly watched and sought to be controlled and regulated very subtly by the bureaucrats, Government and the Management.
During the year 1966 the Federation and the Circle Associations exerted an enormous amount of pressure on the management through a series of protest action and created public awareness on the pitiable working conditions of officers, and the labour Ministry of Government of India invited the Federation office-bearers for hearing their case. Following that the first bipartite was held. The heroic struggle of 1969 was the culmination of agitations / protest action during 1967 and 1968 on many of the pending issues. The agitation of 1969 incidentally exploded the myth of individual accountability for participation in collective action. In fact this significant event in the history of Officers’ Union Movement is largely responsible for kindling the militancy of our members which in turn broke loose the yoke of unilateralism in the Industrial Relations Machinery of the banking industry. Subsequent struggles of the Federation achieved among other things:
Many of the outstanding issues were settled and finalized at Federation Level including the acceptance of officers’ representation in Central Board of Directors. The role of Circle Associations have become the role of a watchdog on the implementation of the agreed policies and protection of the members’ rights and privileges. Ever alert and vigilant, our Circle Association has acquired expertise during the course of many years, in processing the problems of our members. Modern management techniques are being tried to handle the grievances of members and long term planning and organizational methods and systems are used for further growth.
“The demand for 8 hours is not a demand to shirk work as is claimed. It is a demand for the individual to have better life, a fuller life, a complete life. The labourer who asks for shorter hours asks for breath of life, he asks for a chance to develop the best that is in him. It is the purpose of every law making power; that is the purpose of church; it is the purpose of every union”. Mr. Clearance Darrow made this statement in Federal Court House, Philadelphia U.S.A. in 1903. Many times we had to move different courts to get our just demands met and we are still fighting for such basic human rights with the management / Government.
From the very beginning the SBIOA has been the pioneer in the Bank Officers’ movement. Presently it has 4755 members on its roll administered and managed by the four Regional Secretariats at Chennai, Coimbatore, Madurai and Trichy. The four regional offices are co-ordinated and controlled by the Circle Association at Chennai. The Regional Office bearers and the Zonal / Unit Secretaries attend to the day-to-day problems of the members in respective regions/zones. The members take up their problems through the Unit / Zonal Secretaries with the Regional / Circle functionaries. Unionism today is undergoing a tremendous change in the wake of many new aspirations of members, increased interdependence etc. In meeting the social, cultural, economic needs of the members and the society, union has to develop on three major aspects (viz) changing dimensions; positive thrust and deeper commitment, as growth and change is characteristic of all living organisms. The SBIOA has kept the above dimensions in its objectives and activities. The diversified activities of the Association include the following services, career growth information, Publications, Libraries, Social Services Wing, Literary Wing, Sports Wing, Women’s Wing, Cultural Wing, Benevolent Fund, Co-operative Thrift and Credit Society, Co-operative stores, Educational Trust and the Institute for Trade Union Education and Research.