On 17th September 2006, CSBOA celebrated the 40th anniversary of the foundation of The Catholic Syrian Bank officers Association. Today, as an affiliate of All India Bank officers Confederation (AIBOC) and All India Private sector Bank officers Federation (AIPSBOF), we have chalked out a niche in the bank officers’ movement in the country. At present, our salary is at par with the nationalised banks and quite few of the Association’s welfare measures are far ahead even of the nationalised banks.
The job security that we have now, the social status of a bank officer etc. have come to us over a long period of struggles and sufferings of our forefathers, who paved the way for these benefits. Hence it is befitting that we recall the formation days of the movement in general and our Association in particular.
Down the memory lane
During the sixties, although trade unions were established, the condition of employees across the segments was pathetic. Struggles for betterment of service conditions erupted in industrial and service sectors where the plight of the employees was dismal. Though the managements and the governments tried their best to suppress the struggles with an iron hand, they had to bow to the might of the working class and the employees in these sectors obtained some succour to their sufferings through their struggles. These struggles kindled a sense of hope in the hearts of all sections of employees. These were the signs of larger movements of Indian working class for job security, better wages and dignified labour conditions.
The bank employees of the country started to organize themselves under the banner of major trade unions and they resorted to organizational means to claim and obtain their genuine demands.
The predicament of the officer community in the banking sector was abysmal and they were floating rudderless with a pliant existence. Their working hours were not fixed. The salary structure was based on the whims and fancies of the management, which forced the officers to be in a subservient situation. This forced the officers of some major banks to form organizations to question the managements and to establish their rights. The first step towards better service conditions of bank employees came with Desai Award, which came into operation on 01.01.1962. Bipartite settlements followed through intensive struggles by the united fight of bank employees. 1st bipartite settlement was effective from – 01.01.66, 2nd – from 01.01.70, 3 rd – from 01.09.78, 4th – from 01.07.83, 5th – from 01.11.87, 6th – from 01.11.92 , 7th – from 01.11.97 and 8th – from 01.11.2002.
Catholic Syrian Bank
The Catholic Syrian Bank was established on 26th November 1920 at Thrissur, which in later years acquired the unique distinction of being a centre with the highest concentration of banks in the South. In the year 1966 the bank had 43 branches spreading across Kerala and Tamilnadu. It was elevated as a scheduled bank on 30.08.69. It became a “B” class scheduled bank in 1970 and “A” class in the year 1975. Though the bank gained strength through the decades of selfless service of its employees and officers, they were not treated worthy of their services and discontent was brewing up in all cadres. The first trade union in the bank was formed in the year 1963 for the award staff.
Following the footsteps of the visionaries in the banking sector, our officers started thinking of organizing themselves when Bank Officers’ movement was in the formative years at the national level.
The beginning of CSBOA
Thus on a late evening on 18.04.1966, ten stalwarts of our Bank with identical vision met in secret, in a remote corner of POORAPARAMBU’, to visualize foundation of an organization to speak for their rights. Hence an adhoc committee was formed on 24.04.66 with Sri. V. P James, Sri P. K Paul and Sri P. K Kochuvaroo as members. They very discretely began contacting the various officers in the Bank and as a confirmation of the pent up feeling in them, 87 of the 93 officers of our bank immediately agreed to join the association.
|1||V P James||President|
|2|| P K Kochuvaroo
|| P K Inasu
These were the forefathers who led the first fight for the betterment of our service condition. For your enlightenment, the initial demands put forth were
1 Increase of the retirement age to 60
2 Provision of gratuity
3 Employment to dependants
4 Dependants increase in DA to the officers
5 Merger of special allowance or a portion of DA with basic pay.
The first decision of the meeting was to inform the management regarding the formation of the Association and to present the charter of the above demands to the management. As anticipated the demands were summarily rejected. Here starts our relentless effort to improve our service conditions and fight for our self-esteem. Now you know how your present salary structures are evolved and due recognition of our dignity was attained.
The banking sector was brought under social control during the time of Sri. Morarji Desai as Finance Minister. The measure did not provide desired effect on the social garment of India. Until then banking was the domain of the privileged. The massive funds mobilised by banks went into making the few millionaires of India richer. Late Smt. Indira Gandhi foresaw the large potential of the banks in nation building. It was on 19.07.1969 that 14 banks in private sector were nationalized. This step changed the whole realm of banking and the countenance of India in years that followed.
The trade unions in the banking sector received a shot in the arm with this measure. The unions became a force to reckon with in the banking sector. The employees and officers took active interest in the poverty alleviation programmes of the government. This brought the banks and the employees close to the common man. The unprivileged looked upon banks for emancipation from poverty. But the Emergency declared in 1975 brought the trade union activities to a stand still. Those who were active enough had to operate clandestinely. Trade union leaders were jailed and the government machinery bulldozed all genuine trade union activities.
This encouraged the managements to sideline the trade unions in the country. They even went to the extent of promoting trade unions of their own. It was in this backdrop a union was sponsored by the then management in our bank. The union included ‘sweeper to the General Manager’. The members of the staff were coerced to join the union with the explicit support of the management from all spheres. Our organization’s strength came down to double digits. But our commitment to the cause of officer community saw no loss of vigour. Our fight also continued. Later those members who left the Association realized their folly and returned en masse. Then our organization was affiliated to AICOBOO (All India Confederation of Bank Officers Organizations.)
AICOBOO called a strike on 20.07.81. Our organization did not participate in the strike in the circumstances that prevailed in the bank. In the year 1982 we did not participate in the strike called by AICOBOO against ESMA (Essential Services Maintenance Act).
The wrong policies of AICOBOO led the majority of the officer community in the banking sector to abandon the organization. Our Association left AICOBOO and joined AIBOC on 18.10.1987. Now AIBOC is an organization with more than 3 lakh officers in the banking sector. The confederation is the majority organization in public & private sector banks and regional rural banks. From the Year 1987, AIBOC has been representing officers of-these sectors in the bipartite talks. Our Association decided to participate in the nation wide strike called by AIBOC on 23. 03. 1988 against the casual attitude of IBA in the case of several demands raised by it. The strike did not materialize since it was called off by AIBOC. In the year 1989 IBA created a dead lock in the bipartite talks by not responding to AIBOC’s pleas for a negotiated settlement. There was no other option with the bank officers of the country than to go on strike. AIBOC called for a strike on 25.01.1989, first time in the history of our bank, all officers struck work. That was only a beginning. Since then, we have participated in all the strikes called by our apex body.
AIPSBOF (All India Private Sector Officers Federation) was formed on 21.06.1988. We are from the inception one of the prominent constituents in the forum formed to fight for the causes specific to the officers in the private sector banks.
It was in the year 1983, that we introduced our Officers Relief Fund to pay Rs. 50,000/- to the nominee of the deceased officer during service. In the year 1984 the amount was enhanced to Rs. 75,000/-. We started a good library in our office and published a bio data of the members in the same year.
Contract appointments were resorted to by the bank in the year 1988 when people who retired from the bank were reappointed on contract basis. Our Association expressed our discontent in the issue and requested the management to stop practice forthwith. The management stopped the practice.
Our Association celebrated its Silver Jubilee on 23.12.1990 when Sri. V. P James, the founder president was the president and Sri. P. V Sashidharan, General Secretary. The long cherished aspiration of our members; our own office building was inaugurated on 14.01.1991. The building was bought at price of Rs. 3, 07,500/-.
In the General Body of our Association at Kozhikode on 17.10.1991 the Medical Expenses Reimbursement Scheme was introduced in lieu of the then existing Medical Aid Scheme. Later the Medical Reimbursement Scheme had been expanded to include the members as well as their spouses. In the year 1991 the relations with the management deteriorated due to its harsh attitude and the Association decided to call for non-cooperation from 10.06.1991. The non-cooperation was called off after detailed discussions with the management and a settlement on 21.06.1991.
The enviable position of the bank during the year 1992 attracted some business houses to try take over of the bank. The attempts proved futile by the stance taken by the officers, employees and the public. Subsequently in the year 1994 with the tacit support of the board, a foreign entity successfully garnered sizable shares of the bank but failed to get them transferred in their favour. The capital adequacy issue did threaten the bank for some time. Timely actions by the present chairman have shelved the threat till now.
A landmark victory for the employees and the officers of the banking sector was introduction of pension in the year 1993. The same year private sector banks under the leadership of Sri. P N Joshi, Chairman, The United Western Bank Ltd., formed a forum for themselves under the banner Private Sector Bank’s Association. Even after implementation of the pension scheme in nationalized banks, the same was not introduced in private sector banks stating a plethora of reasons. In the year 1994 the bank introduced a new set of Service Regulations unilaterally, with a motive to undermine the strength of the Association. It prohibited officers in grade V the membership of the Association. The Association started an action programme to prevent the Move by the management to appoint on deputation two officers from SBI as DGMs. The management was adamant. Association staged massive demonstrations and a daylong dharna in front of the Head Office on 17.04.94. The Association called for the ‘Social Boycott’ of the chairman and officers on deputation. The management relented and an amicable settlement was reached to call off the agitation.
The stalemate of transfer of shares was looming large and the Association decided to approach RBI and the government for a solution to the crisis. The capital adequacy issue was also prohibiting the growth of the bank at that time. The Association knocked at all doors for a resolution of the crisis. The FIPB and RBI did not fake any decisions on our pleas. We wrote to then chief minister of Kerala Sri. A. K Antony on the matter. As per the decision of the EC on 16.09.96, the Association filed a petition before the Hon. High Court praying direction of the to RBI and Govt, of India to take immediate action on the share transfer application pending before the case was disposed off on 13.01.97 directing them to take appropriate steps for early disposal of applications pending. The central govt. cleared the proposal subject to RBI approval. The impasse continued. A memorandum was submitted to the RBI governor highlighting the plight of the bank and requesting for opportunity for personal discussion on the matter on 22.07.97. Sri. S. R Sen Gupta, the then AIBOC General Secretary personally intervened in the issue and wrote in length to the RBI Governor regarding the matter. Sri. Jagdish Kapoor, Dy. Governor, RBI allowed an appointment to our office bearers on 08.09.97 to present our case on the matter. Although ample assurance was given during the discussions regarding faster decision on the issue, the issue continued without a solution. The right issue was declared by the bank in November’ 98 and the Association went out of its way to see that the issue was successful.
The thirtieth anniversary of Association was celebrated on 10.07.1996 at Hotel Elite International, Thrissur. The founder leaders were honoured at the occasion.
Though pension accord was signed between IBA and the trade unions, the same was not implemented in the private sector banks for long. The AIPSBOF called for a one-day strike on 3rd April 97 in the private sector banks to press for the demand. AIBOC called for a nation vide bank strike in support of the same on 4th April’ 97 . The dharna in connection with the agitation in front of our Head Office was inaugurated by Sri. T. N Madhanan , Gen. Secretary, AIBOC, Kerala State Unit on 04.03.1997. The strikes were later called off in view of the positive response from the government. After waiting for another year, seeing no solution to the issue AIBOC again called for a strike on 30.06.98. A dharna was staged in front of HO demanding immediate of pension. One-day strike on 30.06.98 was total in our bank. Although the chairman had in writing conveyed regarding a positive consideration of pension without delay, the matter was dragged on by the management. The Association and its UFBU associates called for a two-day strike on 5th & 6th of October 98. The two-day strike was called off after getting confirmation from the board that pension will be implemented in the bank with in a time frame and a written assurance to that effect was obtained from the management.
In the year 1998, the management started thinking of recruitment to the post of General Manager directly from outside. Association promptly intervened and objected the move. In spite of our objections, the management went ahead and posted a person. It is ironic that the same management sent him out unceremoniously after a few years vindicating our stand.
Our members were perturbed over the capital adequacy and share transfer issue, which was unresolved for a long time. The new chairman took charge on 17.12.96. He faltered from step one. He was ‘charismatic’ in words but not in deeds. He looked upon the association and its members as enemies. The relations strained to the extent that social boycott of the chairman and the executives, was called by the association on 17.06.99 against the policies of the management. His dismal performance suited well with his miserable exit from Bank. The management tried to stall the payment of salary arrears as per settlement signed between the trade unions and the IBA. The senior officers were compulsorily retired on the ground of non-performance. The credit policy was altered to suit their ulterior ends. A new concept of designated branches for loan delivery was introduced. Officers were harassed and many of their long enjoyed benefits were withdrawn arbitrarily. We observed black day wearing black badges on 29.02.2000. Dharna in front of Head Office was inaugurated by Sri. V. V Raghavan Ex M P on 05.05.2000. The Association again had to call one-day strike on 14.05.2000 to settle the issues. The strike was called off at the assurance of the management. Management vide circular dt. 18.10.2000 decided to amend unilaterally, the service conditions of officers to prohibit grade IV officers also from joining trade unions. The Association filed a writ petition before the High court of Kerala and the obtained a stay order. The capital adequacy issue, which stood unresolved, took a turn with the Association suggesting merger with a nationalized bank as per directions from the parent organization. This infuriated the management and they used all ploys to tarnish the image of the Association. Memorandum was submitted to the then prime minister Sri. Atal Bihari Vajpayee and finance minister Sri. Yaswant Sinha. The local MP s and MLAs were also involved in the developments. A dharna was staged by the UFBU constituents in our bank on 20.02.2001 before RBI Thiruvananthapuram demanding their intervention. The dharna was inaugurated by Sri. Kadakampally Surendran MLA. Sri. K P Rajendran MLA also spoke on the occasion.
Sri. N. R Achan took charge as the chairman on 27.06.2001. The relations of the Association started limping back to normalcy. The timely actions of the chairman solved the capital adequacy problem temporarily. The problems, which haunted the bank, resurfaced again due to the change in RBI and government policies. The change of attitude of the management has kindled a sense of hope in the heart of the employees. It is now for the management to act and prove worthy of their aspirations.
Our history was a relentless struggle for improving our service conditions and saving the bank from going astray. We have always stood by the bank. There were quite a few ups and downs. The changing managements have tried to belittle our organization. Yet we withstood the onslaught.
We have stood with our heads high succumbing neither to threats nor appeasements. Even today, when we face challenges in different ways. We are confident that time will prove the might of a worthy organization. When personal interests are not involved, an organization grows and this organization, which stands only for the welfare of its members, will grow to posterity. The tasks before us are many and formidable. Unity is need of the hour. Our motto is CSB first CSBOA next and individual interest last. Let this guide and lead us.