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AIBOA - HISTORY AND CHALLENGING PERSPECTIVES

In its chequered history of many battles through sacrifices by countless warriors,
AIBEA never compromised or gave up even momentarily its objective of rendering lead and initiatives to every section of Bank employees. It is a point of history that from Bank level to the Pillai committee AIBEA not only represented officers' case logically but also offered its hand of co-operation to government and Bankers to run the Industry effectively realising the need for co-ordinating officers and employees in a service Industry like Banking for realisation of common objectives of nationalisation of the Industry transparency of operations, focus for credit to needy sector and so on and so forth and from these tasks the need for consolidation of the interwined movement from all sides was practiced as an objective from the early day of AIBEA. AIBOA is the legacy of this mighty AIBEA.

AIBOA took it birth from the conscious decision of Baroda General Council of AIBEA in 1979. A new direction to Bank employees movement was enjoined on it, due very much to nationalisation of Banks the task was given for implementation in all Banks and States. Eventhough it is a fact that many stalwarts of AIBEA in yester years like Com.Romesh Chakraborti, Com.K.K.Mundal, Com.Tarakeshwar, com.P.L.Syal, Com.V.K.,Krishnamoorthy, Com.P.K.Porwal, Com.A.Sundar Rao Com.H.N.Puri, Com.Roshan Lal Malhotra and the legendanary figure Com.H.L.Parwana were themselves officers and executives, who were one of those who founded AIBEA and contributed to its growth and consolidation. It is a fact that the decision to form AIBOA took a colossal time of 10 years after nationalisation and a far fetched national debate of very slow and negative dimensions which delayed the process of AIBOA formation.

THE BACK GROUND

The act of nationalisation by the Government of 14 major commercial Banks, whether by political expediency of the rulers on that day or otherwise, increased the faith of Bankmen in the banner of AIBEA to lend a clinching blow in opposing private ownership and to involve bankmen in national reconstruction in the 1970's. Madam Indira Gandhi had a high praise for the views of Com.Prabhat Kar on Banking and when nationalisation came, a new dimension was envisaged to the Banking operations. With it also came workers' participation which after initial enthusiasm could not very much fit in to project the common minimum needs of the industry to maintain the objectives of nationalisation.

This is the essential background when at the time of nationalisation around 1970, AIBEA should have hastened the officers' movement. This was absolutely necessary so as to utilise the process of nationalisation to revamp private banks saddled with bad debts. Today we talk of NPA and overnight provisioning norms without any capacity to intervene with the result mindless mergers are being pushed through by the Government. But even at the time of nationalisation editorials of leading dailies talked of huge bad debts by Private Banks and declared that nationalisation of these banks really saved them. With rapid expansion from 1970 onwards due to nationalisation, all active cadres baptised in struggles of 60's and 70's joined parallel officers' outfits for want of AIBOA which was a late starter and came nearly at the time RBI put lid on expansion of Banks and recruitments thinned out.

The second need was that with government ownership wage bargaining will prove to be tough. This realisation itself made AIBEA state and reiterate its principled position on collective bargaining. Till in the last revision when joint bargaining council of the type of JCM was brought by IBA through joint negotiations with all participating Unions and even after this wage revision with IBA, Bankmen could continue under bipartite system between unions and IBA instead of tripartite forums or third party arbitration. Similarly since nationalisation, Government went ahead with rationalisation of pay structure of officers and appointed Pillai Committee to suggest ways and means to achieve uniformity and this development hastened the process-per force of the officers in different banks to come together to form organisations and to present their case before the committee. Here also in the absence of clarity on the part of AICOBOO who rushed to the committee after its final meeting, AIBEA appeared before it and argued the case for differentials for officers pointing out their role play and nature of duties. However the standardisation visualised in 1974 came in 1979 in the meantime, the delay caused one wage revision for officers, a factor of relative terms declining of officers wages and differentials in the Industry.

AIBEA eventhough it had conceptual clarity in 1970's that officers' interests if not properly codified will not only lead to resentment which in a public sector system recently nationalised is not in its own interest or the need of the industry to expand and service the social sectors, could not in context implement its decision in a professional manner to develop officers movement closely on the heels of nationalisation. Despite a long debate since 1970 by leaders like Com.H.L.Parwana and Com.Prabhat Kar who could see through the womb of time and the further dimensions of an expanding industry and the pivotal placement of officers, the matter which was debated at length in 1973 Madras Conference of AIBEA could not result in a definite decision. This delay from 1969 to 1979 Baroda General Council caused by bank-wise unions leadership who felt loss of their kingdom if bifurcation were to take place, forced AIBOA to miss the bus by a decade atleast and enabled management oriented unions to spring up and managements immediately recognised them to deny any breathing air even to AIBOA which was formed after 1981. While Government through Pillai Committee defaulted wage revision of Officers in the only one increase from 1970 to 1979, we organisationally delayed the AIBOA formation by one decade, both affecting AIBOA in the spread in the Industry.

The delay resulted not only in AICOBOO gaining foothold but denied Officers' Wage revision between 1974 to 1980 when PCR was finally implemented, leading to erosion of one wage agreement for officers.

The delay of one decade is very crucial in the sense the sway held by bank-wise union leaders who prevented AIBOA formation within AIBEA led not only serious consequence of delay in catching the young cadres who migrated to other unions till 1981 or even afterwards but also indicated the looseness of organisation to implement AIBEA decisions with precise timing which always characterised our growth and success. The same dichotomy of tailing to bank-wise unions and getting dictated by bank-wise approach even today grips the AIBOA with one view prescribing an independant approach on every issue by AIBOA and another view to carbon-copy AIBEA in everything that AIBOA thinks or does. This trend is also caused by weakness of our movement to be over viewed by Bank-wise tendencies despite all leaders publicly pronouncing AIBOA is an imperative historical necessity and at the same time putting in little inputs to accomplish this task. Due to long delay in formation, AIBOA suffered with either one section of AIBEA unions not falling in line with accepted philosophy of AIBEA to found and promote AIBOA and another set of unions forming units and holding on to their hegemony in the name of unity etc. Rendering AIBOA unions as closely held units not to be in the Officers' arena proved to be congenital disease. Altogether plagued by this sectorial approach, AIBOA founded in 1981 started its limping in its strides but all the same survived since Com.Prabhat Kar after formation of AIBOA in 1981 lost no time in bringing it up to the centre stage by wresting Negotiating Status with IBA and Government in 1984 just after 3 years of inception of AIBOA.

While from 1970 AIBEA was itself divided into two camps of all cadre unions refusing to bifurcate and those waiting to organise officers in a distinct forum, what finally clinched the issue is the stand of the Bankers refusing to negotiate with award staff on officers' issues and taking advantage of the issue of composite union's representative character for officers and the resultant Andhra Bank struggle and arbitration never pursued thereafter and the incapability of composite unions to decisively ;intervene in officers' m,atters and the conssolidation of AICOBOO to increasingly settle matters with Banks and at Industry level. Further the need for a distinct forum for officers felt and debated endlessly within AIBEA was rendered an imperative legal necessity as AIBEA unions' right to represent officers was denied slowly and steadily after Andhra Bank struggle. It is a matter of fact that this organisational and legal ned is not even today felt seriously by all the unions concerned to ensure competitive sustaining levels of AIBOA in the officers' arena.

AIBEA eventhough it had conceptual clarity in 1970's that officers' interests if not properly codified will not only lead to resentment which in a public sector system recently nationalised is not in its own interest or the need of the industry to expand and service the social sectors, could not in context implement its decision in a professional manner to develop officers movement closely on the heels of nationalisation. Despite a long debate since 1970 by leaders like Com.H.L.Parwana and Com.Prabhat Kar who could see through the womb of time and the further dimensions of an expanding industry and the pivotal placement of officers, the matter which was debated at length in 1973 Madras Conference of AIBEA could not result in a definite decision. This delay from 1969 to 1979 Baroda General Council caused by bank-wise unions leadership who felt loss of their kingdom if bifurcation were to take place, forced AIBOA to miss the bus by a decade atleast and enabled management oriented unions to spring up and managements immediately recognised them to deny any breathing air even to AIBOA which was formed after 1981. While Government through Pillai Committee defaulted wage revision of Officers in the only one increase from 1970 to 1979, we organisationally delayed the AIBOA formation by one decade, both affecting AIBOA in the spread in the Industry.

The delay resulted not only in AICOBOO gaining foothold but denied Officers' Wage revision between 1974 to 1980 when PCR was finally implemented, leading to erosion of one wage agreement for officers.

The delay of one decade is very crucial in the sense the sway held by bank-wise union leaders who prevented AIBOA formation within AIBEA led not only serious consequence of delay in catching the young cadres who migrated to other unions till 1981 or even afterwards but also indicated the looseness of organisation to implement AIBEA decisions with precise timing which always characterised our growth and success. The same dichotomy of tailing to bank-wise unions and getting dictated by bank-wise approach even today grips the AIBOA with one view prescribing an independant approach on every issue by AIBOA and another view to carbon-copy AIBEA in everything that AIBOA thinks or does. This trend is also caused by weakness of our movement to be over viewed by Bank-wise tendencies despite all leaders publicly pronouncing AIBOA is an imperative historical necessity and at the same time putting in little inputs to accomplish this task. Due to long delay in formation, AIBOA suffered with either one section of AIBEA unions not falling in line with accepted philosophy of AIBEA to found and promote AIBOA and another set of unions forming units and holding on to their hegemony in the name of unity etc. Rendering AIBOA unions as closely held units not to be in the Officers' arena proved to be congenital disease. Altogether plagued by this sectorial approach, AIBOA founded in 1981 started its limping in its strides but all the same survived since Com.Prabhat Kar after formation of AIBOA in 1981 lost no time in bringing it up to the centre stage by wresting Negotiating Status with IBA and Government in 1984 just after 3 years of inception of AIBOA.

While from 1970 AIBEA was itself divided into two camps of all cadre unions refusing to bifurcate and those waiting to organise officers in a distinct forum, what finally clinched the issue is the stand of the Bankers refusing to negotiate with award staff on officers' issues and taking advantage of the issue of composite union's representative character for officers and the resultant Andhra Bank struggle and arbitration never pursued thereafter and the incapability of composite unions to decisively ;intervene in officers' m,atters and the conssolidation of AICOBOO to increasingly settle matters with Banks and at Industry level. Further the need for a distinct forum for officers felt and debated endlessly within AIBEA was rendered an imperative legal necessity as AIBEA unions' right to represent officers was denied slowly and steadily after Andhra Bank struggle. It is a matter of fact that this organisational and legal ned is not even today felt seriously by all the unions concerned to ensure competitive sustaining levels of AIBOA in the officers' arena.
xtreme step by AIBOA to opt out of Bipartite talks could focus the issue of pension and keep it alive enabling AIBEA and AIBOA to achieve it in 1993. AIBOA's clarity and relentless campaigns ultimately ensured the much cherished goal of AIBEA from its inception in 1946 to ensure "cradle to grave" security to Bank men and this demand was realised by us in 1993. AIBOA's image got brightened after this notable victory and now all unions that were against pension are urging with each other to get more option. That AIBEA could achieve pension before its 50th Year of Golden Jubilee is very much due to joint efforts of AIBOA and AIBEA as against all other unions in the Industry.

AIBOA has utilised the bargaining capacity and negotiating status earned by it to further the collective bargaining and interest of Bank officers. It's leading role to clinch early wage revision in 1995, wrest back computer increment to Bank officers and secure a good wage revision after securing pension before wage settlement of 23.06.95 is today acclaimed by all in the Industry. In fact AIBOA's clear demand made the bankers call a meeting of bank officers unions on 5.1.95 and make the first initial offer to AIBOA in the absence of AIBOC for the first time in the Industry. That within a decade from the first settlement in 1985 to 1995 when AIBOA could force the settlements on its terms even forcing a defiant AIBOC to fall in line abandoning its demand for Pay Commission or interim relief, is indicative
of AIBOA's role play and capacity given the freedom to operate within the whirlpool of 'wage politics' which in a capitalist economy cannot be dismissed as economism. Even in socialist system when things deteriorated, unions and workers have by their demands and politics could change the course of thinking and the policies in Govt., and unions could win economic and political battles. AIBOA in its limited spectrum has thus proved that it can force the issue even at the discomfiture of the major union but without losing sight of its role for general good and officers' interests. AIBOC which opted out of joint talks and preferred informal talks had to sign the settlement jointly with AIBOA on 23.06.95 and today sits in Joint Negotiations in a reversal of its earlier negative stand.

THE DISTINCT APPROACH IN STRUGGLE FOR RELATIVITY

The recent events have also brought out the capacity of AIBOA to swim through troubled waters with equanimity and objective approach. AIBOA is the only officers' organisation to extend support to workmen unions on relativity linkage to basic pay and has steadfastly asked for extension of cascading effect. While other officers unions declared strike to thwart workmen unions AIBOA informed Government that to the extent of cascading effect it will not make any demand to IBA and Govt., and declared that till workmen settle their disputes AIBOA shall not interfere with the Government and IBA as it would be a very negative precedent of an alien trend. It has also counselled and cautioned Officer unions to await workmen settlement before making any negative attempt to delay or deny their settlement. Committee or no committee AIBOA called for negotiated settlement of workmen disputes and called upon IBA to extend cascading effect to workmen on higher basic pay refusing to bring IBA's argument that workmen settled conveyance allowance in place of basic pay rise. The coming period will once again put AIBOA on acid-test on its credentials to protect officers' interests as during award struggle it faced the situation of workmen's agitation citing officers' settlement and yet took a pragmatic and fair stand unlike other unions which took a technical stand of "No Reopening" or equal rise for officers justifying the distorition in Basic pay.

BANKING REFORMS - THE NEW SCENERIO

Banking reforms are today being pushed in at break-neck speed. Change of Government does not mean necessarily to represent a change in reform speed or content. New Banks at the rate of one for 2 Districts mean alongside RRBs, the new District Banks will cut into PSBs stocks-in-trade severely. With already new urban Banks stabilised at every cosmo and state centre the new district banks will render PSBs redundent in entirity. On a rough estimate within one year of operations the new district banks will mop up nearly 10000 crores accounting for nearly 15 to 25% of 13% deposit growth registered by the industry today. The challenge of new urban Banks and this together will leave the PSB high and dry within a period of 3 to 5 years. Do we have the alternative to prevent this? And mind you out of 13% industry increase of deposits, 5 to 7% comes out of interest on existing deposits, leaving the real growth at less than 8% year.

RBI today is a total failure. It is encouraging concomittent to Govt. Policy NBFCS and private banks despite failure of private banks in the country. It is effecting mindless merger of banks and keeps this option open to threaten safety and security of employees. It has engineered a new situation of declaring banks "dead" by its overnight imposition of provisioning norms and has no initiative to offer to prevent some of the worst dimensions that occurred in 1986, due to RBI allowing Banks to play with PSUs money on assured returns. Tribunals are malfunctioning and list of defaulters of more than one crore is lying with dust instead of RBI in the chambers of Chairmen of Banks. Some banks further accentuate this man-made crisis by declaring manipulated profits through treasury operations of investment departments away from traditional banking operations. RBI through MoUs on Banks, eregulation of interest rates, imposing forex risk on banks is holding to ransom category B and C Banks without any social auditing to compensate these banks. Fresh dose of disinvestment awaits many profit making Banks after SBI and OBC.

AIBOA and AIBEA have a definite role to navigate reforms and revival strategies and should offer a viable practical alternate blue print. Encouraging competitiveness presupposes PSBs being revamped with smaller entities and autonomous units with regulatory framework firmly placed and a committed workforce to work for revival without traditional demand push attitudes.


ORGANISATIONAL CONSTRAINTS AND FUTURE CHALLENGES

AIBOA has organisational weaknesses. Its body politic is divided vertically with one set of unions on all cadre background claiming theirs as role model and another spectrum asking AIBOA to cut loose in the task of fulfilling its primary objective of servicing officers' interest.

However the right choice is to strengthen the bonds of close fraternity to help mutually both AIBOA and AIBEA through constant interaction and establishing forums to ensure consensus approach through dialogue and trust and build up assiduously preserving piloting and pushing up AIBOA's right to fight for officers interest in a fast changing scenario of the industry. The mindset of dogmatic perceptions that " only a particular role-model" will be fitting to the apex is a negative appraisal forgetting the vast spectrum of national dimensions and challenges.

AIBOA in the heels of 50 years of AIBEA is completing its 15 years plagued by a powerful management monolith. It has fought discriminations and its fight against SBI as a first class arrangement keeping entire commercial sector as II class citizens is a classic example of the struggle for uniformity of service conditions over the entire commercial bank sector and is very significant in todays' clamour for Bank-wise settlements by Bank managements.

This stand of AIBOA has exposed the unruly behaviour of some unions to cut into the vitals of collective bargaining and is a significant response to the challenge of bank-wise settlements being propounded in the industry today by profit making banks and SBI in particular. AIBOA is clear that unless you pitch up your priority for uniformity in all banks, the present subtle way of taking SBI move on and on to higher compensatory package can not be fought back, not to talk of stopping bank wise settlements in the industry.

In the GOLDEN JUBILEE celebrations, AIBOA is joyously participating with a view to regenerate its energies for the future - It is conscious that its growth is halting , its unions are habituated to spoon feeding exercises and lack of independant initiatives for furtherance of co-ordinated moves as well as pursuit of officers' interest have pushed it to a state of having limited identity of its own amongst officers

But it is simultaneously conscious that it has vital strength of 5 majority units in PSUs, a substantial following ranging from 15 to 35% in 10 PSBs and majority stake in Private Sector. It numerical strength at about 40000 in PSBs is a significant factor and its leading role on matters has now earned it space in national spectrum. It has been bold enough to initiate national debate on its role and future and has not hesitated to state its position on vital issue no matter whatever may be the reaction in its genuine bid to revive trade union spirit amongst officers and to inculcate the elimination of subservient attitudes that stultify initiatives.

However it is a sad commentary that even after AIBEA has committed to found and promote AIBOA even as an date 7 out of 27 PSBs AIBOA's flag has not been unfurled and in about 4 Banks it stands frozen. Bank-wise co-ordination with AIBOC unions in banks like Bank of India and subsidiaries have pushed back the growth of AIBOA. Some Banks -wise unions are weary and timid of fighting AIBOC unions in their Banks against the declared policy of AIBEA. There has been no will to enforce implementation of AIBEA decision in letter and spirit.

MATURED AND MEANINGFUL RELATIONSHIP WITH AIBEA

The concept of AIBOA is yet to be implemented in many areas by AIBEA. Fifteen years is just too long period to implement the accepted decision of forming AIBOA to all Banks and AIBOA seeks AIBEA's sustained role to help implement its decision atleast now.

Another disquieting feature of AIBOA movement has been the negation of State Committees. Hardly 5 to 6 states committees are functioning and even in these states the participation by bankwise unions who are active in respective Banks is seldom seen to be perceived. Role model of bank-wise set up advanced as the only blue-print for AIBOA without State Committees doing any work to build the units particularly small ones to give them courage of trade union spirit has not helped AIBOA. AIBOA has to develop its ranks to dictate states and get dictated and improved by states instead of suffering from Bank-wise phobia and culture which is disastrous to a national movement committed to general political and trade union issues.

Finally AIBOA is the creation of AIBEA not only to bolster AIBEA's strength in the changing scenario but also to develop AIBOA as the mainstream Trade Union of officers. It has brought glory in the best traditions of AIBEA, through achievements listed above, in a short span. Ushering in collective bargaining, winning pension, ensuring duty leave to officers' association functionaries, settling early wage revision, wresting back computer increment are all achievements unparalleled, given the forces it had to encounter and overcome. Its co-ordinated struggle for the industry and spate of strikes for reforms of banks are a new land mark in the officers' trade union movement.

At the hight of crowning glory of GOLDEN JUBILEE of AIBEA, AIBOA the cutting edge of Bank officers movement looks forward to more challenging future to face the hidden pages of the future with determination and poise to build up a perfect foil from the officers' side in the traditions of AIBEA's foresighted vision towards broad based unity of both cadres and to push officers own matters tactically so that the present context of joint consultations will not allow the IBA and Government to play negatively taking the management unions in their pockets. In this arduous task AIBOA fondly hopes that AIBEA will render all help to complete the organisational structure of AIBOA and lay concrete foundations of co-ordination at all levels of our two organisations in a spirit of our usual traditions, love and affection and though concrete programmes and forums as a fitting tribute of Golden Jubilee joy to strengthen us mutually.

Let GOLDEN JUBILEE of AIBEA render the slogan of "WE SHALL OVER COME AND HUM HONGE KAMIYAB EK DIN" in all our activities to spell a new dimension to the trade union movement of Banks in its original concept and present day context. AIBOA salutes AIBEA on its 50 years glorious, golden march and waits to respond its golden message as a sister organisation with love and affection wishing AIBEA men on their unique moment of history now.

R.J.SRIDHARAN,
GENERAL SECRETARY
ALL INDIA BANK OFFICERS' ASSOCIATION