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History of Syndicate Bank Officers´ Association (SBOA.)

Syndicate Bank Officers´ Association (SBOA) was formed by a few of officers/executives in August 1973 and was registered in October 1973. But in the initial years it could not function as an effective trade union as it lacked credible leadership who could unite the officers under one banner and lead the movement. The Officers in general were subjected to harassment/victimization and lot of injustice. The officers were not eligible for any perquisites / benefits other than the monthly salary paid to them. There was nobody to protect them or to take-up their grievances. The Employees Union which was recognized by the Bank was mute spectator, though most of the clerical promotees had continued their membership in the workmen union even after their promotion.

Under these circumstances Com. H.R. Shenoy, Com. K.S. Shetty, Com.D.S.Punja, Com. P.K. Bhat & many others decided to join the existing SBOA enmasse and to change the leadership. Accordingly, in the historic conference held in Delhi during 1980 a new team of office-bearers consisting of young officers were elected under the leadership of Com. H.R. Shenoy and since then the Association commenced its functioning in the true trade-union principles. The story of the Association since then, has been a story of struggle and sacrifices and also of continued and remarkable improvement in the service conditions of the officers over the years. Among the various action programmes / agitations carried out by the Association, the following will remain as inspiration to the posterity.


In Mumbai though quarter´s facility was sanctioned, the officers were not getting flats on rental basis in those days. Therefore an agitation was launched to get the quarter´ s premises purchased by the bank under the leadership of Com. K.S. Shetty which culminated in gheroing the board-meeting which was held in Mumbai in 1982. Finally the then Chairman & Managing Director Sri. R. Raghupathy came out of the Board-Room and assured the demonstrators that quick steps would be taken for purchasing the flats and accordingly sanctioned Rs.5.00 crores in the same Board Meeting. Thus the bank acquired several flats in Mumbai where officers are getting quarters facility sanctioned on the first day of joining Mumbai branch/office.


In 1987 the Bank came out with ´ ZERO TRANSFE POLICY´ whereby all those officers who had completed a term outside their home state, were denied transfers back to their home state, though they were eligible for the same as per the Transfer Policy. The management which declared it as an austerity measure, had at the same time, indulged in many wasteful expenditure. There was already disenchantment among the members as the management had failed to identify vacancies for promotion for the years 1986 and 1987. The efforts of the Association to resolve the issue amicably did not yield any result. The Association was left with no alternative but to launch an agitation. Beginning with withdrawal of all co-operation and work-to-rule, followed by Dharna at all Administrative offices, the agitation culminated in a Dharna in front of the Head Office at Manipal from 2nd to 4th June 1987. Those days the Chairman & Managing Director and all the General Managers of the Bank were sitting at Head Office at Manipal as all the Departments of the Bank were functioning at Head Office and there was no separate Corporate Office at Bangalore.

Over 600 officers from all over the country converged at Manipal on 2nd June, 1987 to participate in the Dharna. The Management tried to get an injunction from the Court to restrain the Dharna, but the Court rejected the appeal. The management filed a complaint to the Police against the participants and gave a list of 15 top leaders of the Association with an appeal to arrest them on their arrival at Udupi, but the police were not convinced enough. However, truckloads of police were brought from all over the state and Head Office was handed over to them. Hundreds of armed policemen surrounded the Head Office building and hundreds of them took position in different floors and the terrace. But the efforts of the Management to terrorize and bully the officers proved futile, as the participants, in exhibition of courage of conviction and supreme loyalty, continued the Dharna notwithstanding even the scorching sun and the intermittent torrential rains. Functioning of Head Office was brought to standstill and Manipal branch was totally closed.

In an attempt to terrorize the agitating officers, management suspended Com. D.S.Punja and Com. Jayaram Kamath of Manipal Branch and transferred many office bearers and hundreds of activists in different zones with immediate relief. The highhanded actions of the management provoked the officers further and in many zones the working was brought to a grinding halt. Com. M.U.Pai and Com.C P Nambiar, the then President and EC member respectively, went on ´ Indefinite Hunger Strike´ from 8th June, 1987. At this stage, Com. R.N.Godbole, General Secretary,AIBOC intervened and compelled the management to negotiate and settle the issues. Accordingly, Com. D.S.Punja and Com. Jayaram Kamath, who were suspended, were re-instated in the same branch; all victimization transfers of officers during the course of agitation were cancelled; requests for transfer after completion of three years outside home state were conceded and vacancies for promotion in different scales for the years 1986 and 1987 were declared.


When SBOA became very strong and vibrant Organization, the management could not tolerate as the Association was an impediment to the management wanting to indulge in large scale corruption. They wanted to see that the Association suddenly collapses and they wanted union-free situation in the bank, so that they can do anything as per their whims & fancies. Therefore they attempted to divide the officers´ unity by tempting/luring some of the office-bearers and succeeded in their design.A joint-meeting was scheduled in February 1990 with the management and the meeting was a total failure. Some of the office-bearers did not participate in the said joint-meeting as they were conniving with the management.

Subsequently, the management unilaterally stopped remitting to the Association, the subscription collected by them from the members through check-off system; discontinued various facilities extended to the officers and also to the Association and debited huge amounts to the SB A/c. of the Association in the name of telephone bills and other facilities earlier extended to the Association as a part of its recognition. The workmen union also joined hands with the management with an ulterior motive of mobilizing officers´ membership to their union.

With the adverse conditions created by the management, the Association had no other option but to resort to agitational path in March 1990. Countrywide Dharna was held on 21.03.1990. In Mumbai more than 600 officers gathered for the Dharna in front of Reserve Bank of India.It was followed by a Dharna in front of the Banking Department, Ministry of Finance at New Delhi on 26.03.1990 in which hundreds of activists from all over the country participated. The Management further provoked the Association by suspending two of its important functionaries namely Com. K.S. Shetty, then Secretary and Com. P.K. Bhat, then Joint Secretary which resulted in spontaneous shutters-down strike of all the branches/offices in Mumbai Zone for continuous 3 days and continuous Dharna / demonstration before the Zonal Office of the Bank in Mumbai.

The message spread all over the country and different zones went on flash strike to lodge their protest. The management went on further provoking the officers by suspending dozens of activists/office-bearers from different parts of the country viz. Comrades U.V.Dakshinamoorthy, S.B.Patwardhan, Sunil S.Parate, A.Vishwanath Rao, K.Gopalkrishna Rao, Vitthaldas S. Pai, Allwyn D'Souza and K.Ahmed from Mumbai, Com. Debabrata Rakshit, Inderjeet Kumar Mitra and S.C.Das from Kolkata, Com.K.Ravindra Kamath and Com.S.K.Paniadi from Udupi, etc besides summarily dismissing, then a Mumbai Zonal Council functionary and the presentPresident Com. H.V. Coelho. A few officers were also arrested by the Police at the behest of the management who even resorted to filing FIR against the agitating officers. In an unprecedented decision Hon´ble Sessions Court of Mumbai granted anticipatory bail for all the 568 members of the Association in Mumbai. Malafide cross country transfer orders to nook and corner of the country were issued to a large number of activists, including ladies, all over the country particularly targeting Mumbai and Manipal officers. On the very next day of all India strike on 25th April 1990 these orders were executed /issued and relieved instantly by putting notice on Bank´s notice board. These senseless acts of the management shocked the entire officers´ community in the bank and hence they resorted to different types of agitational programme all over the country.

During the period of agitation the Personnel Department of the bank was shifted to Mumbai City and they were housed in President Hotel in Cuffe Parade situated near the bank´ s Zonal Office. From there the management issued mass transfer orders / charge sheets / wage cut notices apart from using Police force to terrorize the officers. They also used CBI in an effort to frighten the Mumbai office bearers. The officers / activists bravely faced all the brutal acts of the management and they did not surrender, on the contrary their level of commitment / determination increased. They mentally prepared for facing any situation. It was like a do or die situation.

The Association continued to fight even though the officers were subjected to lot of hardships. Several Writ Petitions were filed in different High Courts. In a few cases the officers got temporary relief. But the judiciary was not supportive of trade union activities by the bank officers. However, the Association could ensure issuing of marching orders to the then Chairman & Managing Director who was main cause for the agitation, through political intervention.


In 1999 the Association had to once again resort to the agitation. The managers were pressurized to entertain dubious proposals / take over of NPAs from other banks and those who did not relent were humiliated. There was a move to sell Syndicate Institute of Bank Management (SIBM), the Bank´s prestigious apex training institute at Manipal, with its large campus, to private parties for a paltry sum. All the policies such as Promotion Policy and Transfer Policy were thrown to the wind. All this led to large scale resentment from the officers and the Association had to resort to an Agitation in 1999 for restoration of the agreed policies and for the cause of dignity and self respect of the officers. In retaliation, the management victimized the office bearers and the activists through instant transfer orders and immediate relief to remote inaccessible branches. In order to dither the leaders, vigilance raids were conducted on them. The then CMD, even went to the extent of filing FIR against Com. D.S.Punja, the then Vice President of the Association alleging threat from him to his life. He was subjected to further harassment by intimidation transfer to a remote rural branch as its head. But the Association did not relent and ultimately the said CMD functioned from KMC Manipal Hospital bed nearly for two weeks and opted to go out of Syndicate Bank.

Thus, over the years many officers have faced mass transfers, charge sheets, suspensions, summary dismissals and police actions for carrying out legitimate trade union activities under the banner of SBOA. But officers / activists have bravely faced all the brutal acts of the management and they have never surrendered, on the contrary their level of commitment / determination has only increased and turned Syndicate Bank Officers´ Association into an active and vibrant organization. Today SBOA is a monolith having nearly 95% officers of the Bank as its members inclusive of JMGS–I to the level of General Managers.


The Association is a recognized trade union of the officers in the Bank and is a sole bargaining agent for them. Over the period several structured periodical Joint Meetings have been held between the Association and the Management apart from number of Small Committee Meetings, consultations and other interactions. It is due to this bilateral process that several policy and systems could be put into place which have greatly benefited the officers and also the Bank. A Transfer Policy is evolved taking into account the institutional need for mobility and at the same time with least inconvenience to the officers. Promotion Policies are finalized mutually taking into account the aspirations of officers, need for career progression and at the same time identifying the best possible people within the frame work. Similarly quarters facility was extended at different places in a phased manner and today it covers every officer working anywhere in the Bank. Other facilities obtained for the officers include reimbursement of expenses incurred towards conveyance, entertainment, telephone, cleaning materials, news paper, etc. and different type of loan schemes to name a few. These positive developments have their ramifications on the institution and the dedicated service of the officers of the bank is a vital contribution in making it possible for the Bank to transform itself from Pigmy to the Giant.

While differences with the Management is inevitable in labour relations, when it came to the Institution and its interest there has always been convergence of views. In 1992 when stock scam broke over the nation and had its impact on SyndicateBank also, the Association along with the workmen union formed a Co-ordination Committee and discussed with the management the ways and means to bring the Institution out of crisis. In 1993 when due to change of income recognition norms and other factors, the Bank had to show the highest ever loss of Rs.671 Crores, the Association came forward to sign a Joint Appeal with the Management and the workmen union to bring the Institution out of the adverse position. The appeal had its impact and the Bank slowly recovered and progressed to gain inherent strength. As a responsible trade union, the Association has been motivating the officers, from time to time, to contribute their best for the growth of the Bank.


Syndicate Bank Officers´ Association had been one of the militant affiliates of AICOBOO. But when the leadership of AICOBOO was found drifting away from the set objectives and lacked democratic functioning, Syndicate Bank Officers´ Association played an important role, along with the officers´ associations in ten other banks, in forming All India Bank Officers´ Confederation (AIBOC) in 1985. Today, AIBOC is the largest trade union of the supervisory cadre in Asia. Once again, Syndicate Bank Officers´ Association played an important role in forming All India Nationalized Banks Officers´ Federation (AINBOF), as a wing of AIBOC to take up the issues of officers of nationalized banks in 2009. It is history that it was due to the bold step taken by Com.K.S.Shetty, (then General Secretary of SBOA and AINBOF) as President of AIBOC, to sign the MOU with IBA on 27.11.2009, the long pending demand of second option for pension for bank employees and officers could be a realized. Syndicate bank Officers´ Association continues to be one of the militant affiliates of AIBOC and AINBOF.


Apart from continuously striving for improvement in the service conditions and welfare measures for officers, the Association has also put into place its own welfare measures for its members. The Benevolent Fund of the Association pays Rs.75000/- to the family of every member dying in harness. While celebrating its Silver Jubilee in the year 1999, the Association has instituted different merit awards for the wards of the members who score high marks in standard X and XII. The Association has also evolved a Scheme for reimbursement of hospitalization expenses of members and their spouse over and above the reimbursement by the Bank and also to present memento on superannuation of members, etc.


The Association has also formed an organization for the retirees the ‘Syndicate Bank Pensioners and Retirees Association’(SBPRA) in June 2012 to organize the retirees and to redress their grievances. The membership is open to all the retirees irrespective of the cadre they belonged to prior to their retirement. It is affiliated to All India Bank Pensioners and Retirees Association (AIBPARA) a wing of AIBOC. Within a short period the Association has received pan India presence with retires from all the part of the country joining as members.

Association looks at itself as an instrument to ensure justice and fairness to its members and thereby bond the officers to the institutional goals. It is a fact in history that the Association having an enlightened membership of nearly 10000 officers has always stood by the Bank and its members. We believe that a strong organization for ourselves is possible only in a strong institution. All our actions are guided by this vision.

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