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1.1 The trade union movement of officers in the banking industry in our country is eventful and historic. In early sixties, Bank management used officers as a tool for perpetuation its interests without adequately empowering the officers’ community apart from setting up rigid service conditions that are akin to indignities and injustices. Social, cultural and class barriers were erected around the officers. A trade union for officers’ community was a taboo, beyond imagination.
1.2 There was no incentive for shouldering higher responsibilities. A feeling of alienation/helplessness was looming large in the face of draconian, stringent and straitjacket service/ conducts rules and regulations. Lack of opportunity for professional advancements, absence of job security, punitive action without any right to appeal and denial of equity and fair play were the sum and substance of the sufferings of officers. Officers were greatly demoralised with the ‘Master & Servant’ relationship reseed and the management’s power to ‘hire and fire’ even after the nationalisation of State Bank Of India in 1955.
The resentment that started developing was without vent. The trade union activities of workmen organisations in Bank and elsewhere propelled the desire for formation of officers’ Associations in different Banks.

The longing for unity and solidarity made a tiny band of bold officers to fight the onslaught of the management. By their untiring efforts, the State Bank of India Supervising Officials Association (Hyderabad Circle) was founded in the 26th June 1965. It was subsequently named as “State Bank Of India Officers’ Association (Hyderabad Circle)” on 23.2.1975. The signatories to the notice for forming the Association were Sarvashri C.Gowrishankaram, K.Srininvasa Rao, T.Panduranga Rao, P.S.Prasada Rao, V.Suna Rao, S. Vijaya Raghavan, C.C.Mukundan Nambiar, K.Siva Ramakrishna Rao, B.Atchut Kumar and S.Venkatraman. The firsts democratically elected President and General Secretary of the Assocaiation were Sarashri P.Kotaiah and V.Madhava Rao respectively. We owe a deep sense of gratitude to those pioneers of Officers’ movement in Hyderabad Circle.
The broad objectives of the Association are to organise and unite all the officers of the SBI and to secure to the members, fair conditions of life and service and to redress their grievances.
Disregarding the adverse reaction of the management, like wise similar Associations were formed in several circles in 1965. There was more to come. Unity, solidarity for justice was the spirit and driving force of this union movement, which set the tone for formation of a Federation.
The birth pangs of the organisation were immense. Suspicion, vacillation, fear reigned supreme. The immediate reaction of the management to the Officers’ Trade Union was hostile. The management even dismissed with contempt the formation of Association, treating it to be a ‘petition making body’.
The Bank, expectedly, frowned upon the Associations/Federation, according them a status no more than ’officers clubs’. The role of the Association was treated as supplicatory confined to making requests, but at the mercy of the Bank. Another ground reality was that supervising officials in State Bank were not authorised to discharge the ‘Management function’ in the sense that they were not vested with authority to take major policy decisions in personnel areas, but only given limited delegation to take financial and functional decisions. They did not have authority to recruit, relocate, and appraise performance, reward and discipline, though the founder fathers had to face stiff opposition from the Bank and other interest groups, their attempts to organise themselves were unique for any supervisory cadres in any industry. They had to cross many obstacles and hurdles. Every member had to be approached and convinced about the need and necessity to have an Association. It took a lot of time and effort to enrol even 25 members in the beginning. Once the trend was set, it was en masse, later.

The suspension of officers in Mumbai circle was the flash point for the officers to show up. The issue for the strike was the “Right of officers to form Trade Union to collectively represent and right for Trade Union action and the immunity from individual accountability for collective actions”. Officers could no more put up with the provocation of the Bank and bear the humiliations heaped on them. An instant decision was taken to go on ‘INDEFINITE STRIKE’. The word of strike spread like wild fire. From Kashmir to Kanyakumari, Asansol to Ahmedabad, all officers downed their pens instantaneously. The Bank retaliated and hurled threats. Invoking the concept of ‘MASTER AND SERVANT’, terminations notices were seved to frighten the agitating officers. The reign of terror and victimisation did not have even an iota of effect on the officers’ community who were anyway at the end of their tether. The strike continued undeterred by threats of termination of service. Their anguish was at shouldering vicarious responsibilities, facing accountability without authority and working for 12 to 14 hours a day including on Sundays and holidays without even the facility of casual leave, joining time etc. Their anger was at being maltreated despite the deplorable working conditions they were subjected to.
3.2 The Banking transactions came to a standstill. Government treasury work came to a screeching halt. The doors of clearing houses were closed. The entire country, nay, the entire world was watching the rare action of the managerial class with dismay and disbelief. Dismay because the lifeline of economic activity was broken; Disbelief at the first-ever managerial class strike that was unheard of in the annals of the trade union history anywhere on the globe.
3.3 Finally, better senses prevailed on the powers that be in the Bank. The suspensions were lifted and the strike was called off. The entire Nation breathed a sigh of relief. All this took 17 long days.
3.4 The path breaking historical strike by the State Bank Officers’ Community inspired and enthused officers in other organisations, elsewhere too. Association of Officers were formed in almost all sectors against exploitations and to secure better working conditions.
The Associations of four circles of State Bank of India viz., Bombay, Calcutta, Delhi and Madras federated to form the ‘ALL INDIA STATE BANK SUPERVISING STAFF FEDERATION, which is presently named as ‘ALL INDIA STATE BANK OFFICERS’ FEDERATION’. Shri S.R.Mohandas, a leading Industrial Relations Consultant had been the Friend, Philosopher and Guide during this formation. The First Annual General Conference of the Federation was inaugurated by Shri Shanthilal Shah, Minister of Government of Maharashtra at Bombay on the 27th August 1965 with Sarvashri S.K. Mishra and L.V.Subramaniam as President and General Secretary respectively. The Federation is apolitical and independent trade union led by serving bank officers only. Thereafter, all the Circle Association have joined the Federation.
After this consolidation at the apex level, the Federation and the Associations 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 Labour Law by the Government, the officers of the bank used all ingenuities to secure recognition for this group of professional workers, through a series of organisational actions like removal of ties, work to rule, mass casual leave and many other forms of agitation. The Management also let loose terror and victimisation in the form of transfers, suspensions and charge sheets.
Despite stiff efforts from the top management to demoralise officers, the Associations/Federation established themselves after the historic 17 days of total strike of 1969. The State Bank officers’ strike in 1969 was a shot in the arm of managerial and professional employees’ movement in India and all over the world.
Acknowledging the need for unity of purpose, an apolitical conduct and a confederative strength, the All India Bank Officers’ Confederation came in to being. I must proudly mention that the AIBOC took birth in 1985 in our city. It was soon recognised by both the Government of India and Indian Bank Association as a dominant bargaining agency for bank officers. The officers’ movement is marching ahead, ever since.
The heroic struggle of 1969, the significant event in the history of Officers’ Trade Union movement, was 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 achieved chiefly the following: Recognition of Federation/Association as sole bargaining agent. Formulation of Central/Circle/Regional Negotiation Councils, Industrial Relations Councils, Grievance and Disciplinary Procedures, Structured Fora etc., Abolition of grades in Head Cashiers; Removal of vicarious responsibility of payment of guarantee insurance by Head Cashiers. Representation on the Central Board of the Bank. Discontinuation of contribution to Pension Fund by members and Introduction of Family Pension Scheme. Improvements in Superannuation benefits. Grade merger and automatic movement in time scale up to MMGSIII Introduction of fair placement policy. Right to defend a colleague following the Principles of Natural Justice. Re-defining of leave rules/improvement in working hours. Leave/Home Travel Concession and Leave Encashment facilities. Medical Aid facilities to dependents. Index linked D.A. Leased Accommodation facility/Economic Rent to all officers, including Probationary/ Trainee Officers; and for officers posted at Difficult Centres/ rural centres. CONCLUSION
The gains of the movement have to be further consolidated. The struggles are not over. A number of attempts are being made to destabilise the Officers’ Trade Union Movement both by the political parties and the Government. Let us strive for further strengthening of our unity and march on to a new era of patriotic and responsible Trade Union Movement for the welfare of ourselves and the society. We have several tasks ahead of us. Several issue like scrapping of obnoxious clause of 19(3) from Service Rules, restoration of conveyance reimbursement to pre-gulf war levels, Review of Systems & Procedures on Disciplinary Proceedings keeping in view the changes in the environment etc. are eluding solutions. Similarly, stubborn attitude of the IBA and Government on wage revision is driving us to agitational path once again. History shall be re-written to show our unity and strength .