Canara Bank Employees’ Union
Can we escape history?
No, We cannot.
So much so, it is always wiser to adopt an attitude of learning from history rather than ignoring it, however unpalatable it may happen to be.
A Nation has a history:
So also an Institution and an Organization.
The history of trade unions is the sum total of the experience of the workers to emancipate themselves from exploitation. Its pages are filled with struggles and sacrifices, successes and set-backs. It further portrays vividly the role played by the pioneers who champion the cause of the working-class.
It is with this understanding we present to our members the history of their organization, Canara Bank Employees’ Union.
The ear of industrial revolution ushered in totally a new type of relationship between the master and servant. With a view to intensify exploitation, it became imperative to deprive the once independent artisans and semi-independent peasants their means of production and turn them into mere economic slaves. They toiled and moiled for 14 to 16 hours every day. Exhausted and fatigued they slept on the side of the machines. Long working hours, un-hygenic working conditions and inhuman treatment were the order of the day. At first they though that the “new demons” as they called the machines, were responsible for their plight and they therefore gave vent to their feelings even by destroying the very machines. Then they thought that they would convince their masters through personal prayers and petitions. Seldom did they realize then that neither their emotional outbursts not their individual pleadings will bring about any improvement in their living and working conditions.
It was only through their own experience, workers realized the need for unity. It not only gave them the numerical strength but also infused them with confidence and courage. With this new awareness the workers forged ahead. Thus Unity of workers became the pre-requisite for their forming trade unions later on.
“Trade Unions, as we are aware of, are the instruments at the hands of organized sections of the working people for being effectively used for social change”. It acts as the unifier of the work force. It is effective instrument of defence. It is also the ablest organ for advance.
It is well know that during Second World War, the prices of commodities went up. It hit the living conditions of the working class and the middle class in our country. The working class reacted very sharply. There were strikes in different parts of the country. The middle class which was hitherto averse to form into trade unions, felt the need and necessity of forming trade union organizations.
The bank employees were no exception. Uniformity in service conditions was a far cry. One would be surprised to know that the pay-scales of employees within the same bank differed from branch to branch. Working hours were nonexistent. Security of service had been a mere pious expectation. Groaning under these wretched service conditions, bankmen in the country were languishing. Inspired by the success of the struggles of the working class, the bank employees took courage to organize themselves.
Thus in 1946 the All India Bank Employees’ Association was founded. Later on, bank employees’ organizations came into existence in different parts of the country. Having organized themselves, the bank employees raised demands for increasing their wages and for improving their service conditions. Like their brethren in the other industries, they also organized industrial actions. The series of strike struggles in different banks and in the same bank in different centres and states to achieve improvement in their service conditions necessitated the bankers to approach the Government to bring the industry under the purview of the Central Government. It was at this juncture the Government brought the Banking Industry under central jurisdiction. Simultaneously, the Government of India referred the disputes in the industry to adjudication by appointing an All India Tribunal, presided over by Justice Shri K. C. Sen.
Formation of the union
The movement of bank employees does not conform to any form or norm. it has been an evolution by itself. The growth of the organizations are horizontal and vertical; unitary and federated; State-wise and all-India bank wise etc. the formation of organizations is essentially influenced by compulsion of circumstances. While some came about to ensure security of service, and eliminate victimization for trade union activity; others were organized to secure economic advance and privileges. While so, in Canara Bank the Union came into existence to provide security of service to the employees. This could be seen from the fact that when the Sen Tribunal called upon the Unions of employees or groups of employees to collectively submit their statements of claims for consideration by the Tribunal, there was no effort to form a trade union in Canara Bank. At the same time, with a view to get the benefits from the Sen Tribunal seven employees from Madras and a few from Sholapur submitted such statements of claims to the Tribunal. Even this was not to the liking of the Management. While the management could successfully pressurize and dissuade the employees of Sholapur to withdraw their representation from the Sen Tribunal, employees from Madras stood firm and pursued their claims before the Sen Tribunal relentlessly. For purposes of record they described themselves as “Canara Bank Staff Association” without fully being conscious of the need for organizing a trade union organization in the Bank. For them, the purpose was limited to secure some monetary gains from out of the proceedings of the Sen Tribunal. They did secure the gains, in that, the plea of the bank of its incapacity to pay was not accepted and the Sen Award was made applicable to the employees of Canara Bank. The “Group of Seven” who came together for the limited purpose of representing before the Sen Tribunal did not deem it necessary to register themselves as a trade union under law. On the contrary they wee statisfied that they got the benefits of the Sen Award and thus having achieved their purpose, the Group withered away.
It was strange but true that in Canara Bank which was founded in 1906 there were hardly a few employees having longer years of service working in the bank till 1950. the average age group was below 30. Could you guess the reason therefore?
The management was following an ingenious scheme called “reorganization scheme” which had no parallel in the industry. Under this scheme, an employee tends to become inefficient as he puts in more years of service. In order to maintain the efficiency of employees, the bank used to systematically terminate the senior employees who had put in three years of service and induct new recruits every year.
Besides low wages and apalling service conditions. The employees were hunted by this pernicious policy pursued by the management. Any attempt to put an end to this scheme by individual employees was ruthlessly put down. Slowly but steadily the discontentment among the employees was mounting.
When the Sen Award was made applicable to the employees of the Bank, there was a sudden increase in the wages of the employees in Canara Bank. From Rs. 45/- the salaries and emoluments of a employee in the erstwhile Area I went upto Rs. 112/-. The working hours and other service conditions were radically altered. Even while being compelled under law, the management had to implement the provisions of the Sen Award, it did not reconcile to such circumstances, because the employees through their efforts brought its enforcement. The management, with a view to neutralize the gains of the new service conditions retaliated against the employees by terminating as many as 60 employees through out the bank under the “reorganization scheme”. As a part of the attack, the axe fell on two employees working in then Govindappa Naicken Street, Madras Branch viz, Comrades Chacko and Kuduva. It was the last straw that broken the camel’s back.
Having seen the efficacy of limited unity for securing monetary gains, the employees in Madras moved with greater awareness for uniting themselves in their entirety to lunch the first ever strike action in the bank. It was 30 November 1950. This Strike Action necessitated the intervention of the Government’s conciliation machinery; and as a sequal thereto not only the two employees in Madras but also all the other employees were reinstated. What a unique achievement.
Enthused by their success, the employees in Madras lost no time in consolidating the gains. Thus the Canara Bank employees’ union came into existence. It should be note that for the formation of our Union our brethren in Indian bank and bank of India who had organized themselves earlier extended all support and guidance. Mention must be made of the yeoman service rendered by late Comrade D. Natarajan of Bank of India for building up the trade union movement in our Bank.
The news about the formation of the Union was greeted by all the employees of the bank, for it was indeed the day of deliverance for them. The jubilation was so much pronounced that within three months a large number of employees from various branches became its members. It is therefore no wonder that the Union grew from strength to strength. In the meeting held on 29 March 1951 the Rules and Bye-laws of the union wee adopted. Then the Executive Committee which met on 28 April 1951 decided to register the Union under the Indian Trade Unions Act and authorized the following seven persons to make the necessary application for registration.
1.Com. P.K. Janardhanan Pillai
2.Com. K. Narasimha Shenoy
3.Com. K. R. Narasimha Rao
4.Com. N. J. Antony
5.Com. E. R. Balakrishna Rao
6.Com. N. Ramamurthy
7.Com. C. Meenakshisundaram
It will be of interest to note that among the seven founder members of our Union, only Com. K. R. Narasimha Rao and Com. N. J. Antony continue as members of the Union, while Com. P. K. Janardhanan Pillai and Com. E. R. Balakrishan Rao have left the services of the bank. Com. K. Narasimha Shenoy and Com. N. Ramamurthy have gone out of our organization. Com. C. Meenakshisundaram is no more.
The Union was duly registered under the Indian Trade Unions Act on 10 May 1951. this day, the Founding Day of our Organization is a turning point in the lives of all the employees of the bank.
The Dynamic Years (1953-1957)
It must be mentioned that two factors contributed for the dynamic growth of our organization. The first is its set-up on All- India basis. The second factor is its affiliation with all India Bank Employees’ Association.
The Bank Employees’ movement in our country, as mentioned earlier, has not developed on a uniform pattern. We have got State-wise unions in many banks. For instance in Central Bank, the employees are organized on State-wise basis, say in Tamilnadu, Kerala, Andhra, Karnataka, Maharashtra, West Bengal, Delhi etc. The bank employees in Uttar Pradesh are members of Uttar Pradesh Bank Employees’ Union, irrespective of the fact that they work in different banks. Then there are All-India Bank- wise unions. Outs is one among them the employees working in all the branches of the bank throughout the country are members of our Union. It will be necessary to know the reson that prompted us to form ourselves into an All-India Bank-wise organization. Before the formation of the union, the employees wherever they wee working had the bitter experience of undergoing the severest hardship at the hands of the management. Their problems were common. Under the slightest pretest, employees were transferred to far off places that too from one State to another. What was common to all the employees in the bank was the acute suffering under which they were groaning. It was but natural that they felt that they can face the employer only by building an All-India Trade Union organization. How farsighted the decision was proved by the subsequent event. Similarly, the decision to affiliate with All India Bank Employees’ Association has proved to be of decisive importance as far as the Union is concerned. The employers in the industry having seen the writing on the wall, started adopting the traditional divide and rule policy by encouraging divisive forces. They even went to the extent of suggesting to some of the Unions to come out of AIBEA. In fact of few unions fell a prey to these machinations by disaffiliating from AIBEA. But history has proved that it is only AIBEA which could deliver the goods.
Immediately after the Sen Award was quashed, the bankers tried to put the clock back. They arbitrarily increased the working hours and frantically attempted to alter the service conditions to the detriment of the bank employees. This naturally made the bank employees to react vehemently. In response to the call of AI BEA, bank employees went on country-wide strike actions. The AIBEA’s call came as a blessing in disguise for our organization. It provided an excellent opportunity to our membership to acquire militanc. It roused their level of trade union consciousness. It enabled them to build their organization as a powerful weapon. Even though the union was at a nascent stage, its leading cadres were taking keen interest in building the general movement of the bank employees in South. They were responsible for the formation of many bank-wise unions in Madras. They played a prominent role in founding the then Madras State Bank Employees’ Federation. Com. P. K. Janardhanan Pillai was the General Secretary of the Federation from its inception till he resigned from the bank in 1958.
The constitution of the Sastry Tribunal also assisted the process of consolidation of the organization. Whereas before Sen Award, only a group of seven employees submitted their statement of claim, before the Sastry Tribunal, the Union itself was duly represented by Com. P.K. Janardhanan Pillai and Com. K. G. Kamath. Thus by 1953, the organization acquired a stature, and the management had to reckon with it. Thus when the Sastry Award contained a recommendation to the bands to accord recognition to their employees’ union, the management recognized the Union in 1953. As a sequal thereto, the system of Joint Conferences between the representatives of the management and the representatives of the Union came into existence.
While recognition of the Union and opening up dialogue with its representatives are no doubt steps in the right direction, lack of understanding and inability to settle the burning problems of the employees in a spirit of give and take came in the way of making these actions meaningful and purposeful. Perhaps, the administration thought that the Union will be more than satisfied by the management conferring these rights merely on paper without corresponding results to match them. The recognition of the Union did not lead to extending such rights as release of office-bearers for trade union work deduction of union subscription from the salaries of employees etc. The Union had to relentlessly pursue these issues. Similarly, while on the one hand the management was not ready to discuss issues beyond the Awards on the other hand they did not implement the provisions of the Award properly. Simultaneously they unleashed a severe attack on the employees by indiscriminate charge-sheets. It was therefore a period of hectic activity for the Union. It has to utilise the forum of the joint conference to the best advantage of the employees. It has to conduct series of struggles to thwart the attempts of the management to victimise the employees.
The case of payment of Special Allowance to the Assistant Accountants (Special Assistants). shroffing and godown allowance and refund of Staff security Deposit to the employees were referred to Salim Merchant Tribunal. The Award of the Tribunal fully vindicated the stand of the Union on alt these issues. The contention of the Management that the Assistant Accountants in Canara Bank are just like ‘Proofreaders’ in a printing press and as such are not entitled for the. Special Allowance laid down under the Sastry Award was rejected by the Tribunal lock stock and barrel. As a result the management had to pay the Special Allowance to these employees It will be relevant to point out that the management did not spare any effort to frustrate the efforts of the Union. They even went to the extent of refusing to permit the Union to conduct its case through the counsel. Against all odds the Union conducted its case before the Salim Merchant Tribunal. All the disputes referred to the Tribunal were decided in favour of the Union. However, it would be worth quoting relevant extracts from the Award with regard to the issue of Special Allowance to (Special Assistants) Assistant Accountants
“The first matter over which differences and difficulties have arisen between the parties is with regard to the payment of Special Allowance to Assistant Accountants in the bank and the question which had to be decided has been stated in the following terms in Government’s order of reference:
“Whether the Assistant Accountants in the Canara Bank Limited should be treated as coming under the category of Sub-Accountants and paid the Special Allowance of Rs. 45/- per mensum in accordance with the directions contained in paragraph 164(b) of Award of All India Industrial Tribunal (Bank Disputes) Bombay constituted by notification of the Government of India in Ministry of Labour No. S.R 0. 35 dated the 5th January 1953 modified as aforesaid.”
“I am convinced that the cadre of Assistant Accountants was created not with a view to confer empty titles on some clerks, as was seriously urged by Shri P. S. Nayak, but with two fold object and purpose of training and equipping intelligent and promising clerks for ultimately holding Officers’ posts.”
“It was sought to be argued by the Bank that checking work does not amount to Supervisory work and P. 5. Nayak seriously argued that the checking work was like work of proof correcting. I am not satisfied that this is a proper analogy. In my opinion this checking work done by the Assistant Accountants taken along with their other duties does in reality involve an element of supervision.”
“After an anxious consideration of the material placed before me and the submissions of both parties on this point I am more than satisfied that Assistant Accountants in this Bank are in reality only senior clerks doing higher type of clerical work involving an element of supervision, over other clerks as part of their duties as contemplated by paragraph 164 of the Sastry Award and that therefore they are entitled to the Special Allowance of Rs. 45/- per mensem awarded under 164(b) of the Sastry Award.”
The Award of the Salim Merchant Tribunal unmistakably established not only the justness of our demand, but also the capacity of the Union to pursue the issues before the appropriate forums. As a matter of fact, this has become an outstanding achievement for the bank employees’ movement as a whole.
White the organisation had to thus mobilise its resources to secure several rights and privileges, it had to equally spend its time and energies in defending its members from the serious attacks launched by the management during this period.
The developments in the banking industry during this period also contributed to the growth of our Union in no small measure. The Award of the Sastry Tribunal instead of settling the dispute in the industry further aggravated the unrest among the bank employees. The Award was retrograde in character especially in respect of wages, as it resulted in severe and all round wage-cuts to the bank employees. The bank employees rose in protest throughout the country. Processions, demonstrations and Strikes swept the country. Copies of Sastry Award were burnt in the streets of Madras. Simultaneously AIBEA filed an appeal before the Labour Appellate Tribunal for staying the Sastry Award. The bankers also went on appeal against certain provisions of the Sastry Award. The Labour Appellate Tribunal restored the wage-cuts and improved upon the dearness allowance scheme laid down by the Sastry Award. But quite surprisingly, the Government of India intervened and modified the Labour Appellate Tribunal’s Award to the detriment of the bank employees. The Government for the first time created a new pay-scale for bank employees working in places with a population of below 30,000. The unprecedented action of the Government at the behest of the bankers provoked the bank employees to unleash powerful strike action. At the call of AIBEA, there was countrywide protest strike action on 23 September 1954. All the trade unions in the country also extended their support to the bank employees in their hour of trial. The powerful working class actions had its echo in the Central Governments’ Cabinet. Shri V. V. Giri who was the Labour Minister, tendered his resignation from the Cabinet as a mark of his disapproval of the Government’s action in modifying the Labour Appellate Tribunal’s Award It was in this background, the 6th Conference of AIBEA was held in Madras in 1954. The Conference decided to give a call for countrywide General Strike from 10th December 1954. As part of the bank employees’ movement, the membership of our Union took an active part in all these actions and this undoubtedly helped to promote their consciousness.
Finding the determination of the bank employees, the Government relented and referred the dispute in the banking industry to a one-man Commission headed by Justice Rajadhyaksha. In view of the appointment of the Bank Award Commission, AIBEA called off the General Strike which was to commence on 10 December 1954. Due to the untimely death of Justice Rajadhyaksha, Justice Gajendragadgar was appointed as the one-man Commission. The recommendations of the Gajendragadgar Commission were accepted by the Government and it paved the way for settling the dispute in the banking industry at rest.
As the Union took steps to increase its membership in all the branches of the bank as well as to secure several rights and privileges, especially after the publication of the Sastry Award, the management, true to its tradition, unleashed severe repression on the employees. Enmasse charge-sheets were issued to employees in Bombay and Madras. Thus there was a grave threat to their security of service. It was during this period Corn. A. K. Nayak, who was the Joint Secretary of the Union at Bombay and who was at the forefront in organisational activities, was charge-sheeted for the alleged defiance of orders and was placed under suspension. The management victimised Com. A K. Nayak, with a view to strike terror in the minds of the employees. The gravity of the situation necessitated the intervention of the leadership of AIBEA and accordingly Com. Prabhat Kar and Com. Parwana intervened to restore normalcy. The constant attacks from the management culminating in the victimisation of the Joint Secretary of the Union compelled the organisation to consistently mobilise its ranks to meet these challenges effectively. Thus it was unmistakably established that the organisation was an effective instrument for defence and this generated the confidence in the organisation and rallied the membership.
THE DORMANT YEARS
After the enactment of the Industrial Disputes (Banking Companies) Decision Act. 1955. there emerged for the first time settled conditions of service for the bank employees. Excepting for certain sporadic actions, a new period of relatively peaceful development appeared in the bank employees’ movement. While on the one hand the stability and settled conditions of service difused the militant mood of the bank employees, on the other hand, attempts at disruption both at the national level and at individual bank level aimed to create disunity and disaffection among the bank employees.
Disgruntled elements with the patronage of the bankers and the Government floated a so called Trade Union organisation “All India Bank Employees’ Federation.” Prominent personalities like Khandubhai Desai, former Labour Minister and Abid Ali Jaferbhai, former Deputy Labour Minister openly issued appeals’ to the bank employees to join AIBEF. The Bank employees who are known for their vigilance and organisational loyalty responded immediately to the call of AIBEA for observance of All India Solidarity Day and All India Demands Day on 8th and 9th March 1956, respectively. In 1953 at Madras, the Indian Overseas Bank Employees’ Union and the Indian Bank Employees’ Union disaffiliated from the then Madras State Bank Employees’ Federation. While the Indian Bank Employees’ Union subsequently reviewed their decision and came back to the fold of the mainstream of the bank employees’ movement, the Indian Overseas Bank Employees’ Union did not reconsider their decision. Again in 1954 at Madras during the AIBEA Conference, attempts to split our national organisation was made but thanks to the unity of the bank employees such attempts were thwarted. Having failed in their attempts, the divisive elements succeeded in weaning away, the All India State Bank of India Staff Federation from the fold of AIBEA. Similarly, in Bombay the Bank of Baroda Employees under the leadership of Rajagopal chose to secede from AIBEA.
It was during this period similar attempts were made to disrupt our union. The methods adopted for such moves were identical with the methods employed to disrupt AIBEA. As a matter of fact, it became evident that those who indulged in attempts at disruption both at AIBEA level and at our union level- were the same coterie who were patronised by the bankers and the ruling party at the Centre. Under the pretext of alleged political differences, they did not hesitate to form rival minority organisations with the avowed purpose of dividing the employees. It was under similar circumstances, the headquarters of our union was shifted from Madras to Bombay in 1957 with a view to safeguard the integrity of the organisation and ensure its normal functioning. Frustrated by this Shri K. Narasimha Shenoy, the founder, General Secretary of our Union displayed his divisive role by forming a minority organisation called Canara Bank Employees’ Association. As was expected he joined hands with those who were disrupting the bank employees movement under the banner of AIBEF. While professing his allegiance to HMS, he did not hesitate to forge an opportunistic alliance with AIBEF which claimed its allegiance to INTUC. His philosophy was his enemy’s enemy was his friend! It was therefore no wonder that he received the indirect support from the management from the beginning.
Beginning with this set back, the union had to pass through a period of successive set backs interestedly created by certain leading cadres of the organisation at different centres. Soon after the Head Quarters of the Union was shifted to Bombay, another former General Secretary of the Union Shri K. G. Kamath came out openly against the organisation’s noble efforts to render relief to Com. A. K. Nayak who was unjustly victimised by the management. He openly attacked the union by issuing circulars attributing motives to the actions of the Union. At the same time, the leadership of the union was also lacking organisational perspective. Disputes of vital nature were withdrawn from conciliation. This once and for all blockaded the chances of securing a reference of the dispute on dismissal of Com. A.K. Nayak. Crucial issues like service code, employment of clerks as Assistant Accountants (Special Assistants) promotion of employees to routine officers’ cadre and promotion of subordinate staff to clerical cadre were not handled effectively. As a reward for their role, Shri KG. Kamath and a few others were rewarded by the management through promotions to officers’ cadre.
Justas at the time of constitution of the Sastry Tribunal, the so called organisation AIBEF came into existence at the all-India level, so also after the expiry of the Desai Award when the bank employees under the banner of AIBEA were 1agitating for improvement in their wages and other service conditions, another so called trade union organisation viz., the National Organisation of bank workers was propped up in the banking industry. The formation of this body had its reflection in our union as well. Communal and anti-national elements formed yet another “Union” called Canara Bank Workers’ Union, with its head quarters at Nagpur, a RSS dominated place. Right from its inception, NOBW did not conceal its avowed policy of generating communal hatred and political bigotry among the employees. This naturally gladdened the hearts of the bankers who do not being satisfied with the performance of AIBEF were tooking out for an alternative organisation.
Thus the period between 1957 and 1963 was one of inaction, when the activities of the union was at its lowest ebb, This period witnessed, the organisation trying to maintain its entity by taking recourse to litigation to resolve outstanding issues. The period also witnessed the management maintaining its aggressive postures and attitudes towards the employees. The employees looked to the union hoping that the organisation despite all these adverse circumstances would provide the necessary solutions. It was in this background, the union met in its conference at Vijayawada in 1963.
THE TURNING POINT
Will Vijayawada provide an answer? was the question before
The Vijayawada Conference did provide the perspective to the organisation The Conference lifted the organisation from the morass. It infused the union with a new vigour There was clarity on issues. The conference also generated great enthusiasm among the members. The conference evolved a new formula for promotion with national weightage for educational qualifications. 1The conference empowered the Executive Committee to act with all the means at its command and directed it to pursue the demands regarding bonus, improvement over Desai Award, working conditions of subordinate staff, and method of recruitment.
The post Vijayawada conference period proved to be a hectic period organisationally. It was during this period the organisation took the initiative to bring the employees of the erstwhile taken over banks into its fold by settling their wages and service conditions. The banks that were taken over were small ones, where the employees had no service conditions worth the name. In Kerala itsef employees of four taken over- banks, viz., Trivandrum Permanent Bank, Bank of Kerala, Cochin Commercial Bank, Poornathrayeesa Vilasam Bank became the members of our Union. In Andhra, employees of G. Raghunathmull Bank and in Tamilnadu, employees of Pandyan Bank and Aarnad Bank came into the fold of our Union. The process of amalgamations and taken over of banks had a mutual effect to our union and to the employees of these banks, in that they became our members and in turn they got improved wages and better service conditions applicable to the employees of Canara Bank themselves. In the meanwhile, the management renewed its attack on the employees. This time it chose the office bearers for its attack Com. K.P.A. Prabhu. Treasurer of the union was charge-sheeted and placed under suspension. This calculated. and vindictive action of the management was meant to divert the attention of the union from pursuing its demands. To expose the vindictive attitude of the management. Com. K.P.A. Prabhu went on a hunger strike. To add insult to the injury. the management sought the help of police to evict him from the premises of the bank. The membership of the union was roused and the members in Bombay went on a month long protest action which culminated in a 4 days all India Strike action. For the first time the organisation could effectively move and mobilise its members at the Administrative office of the bank at Bangalore. The struggle was a complete success. The precious life of Com. K.P.A. Prabhu was saved. The impact of the struggle enhanced the organisation’s effectiveness. It also laid bare the hollowness of the management. With the experience gained in the struggle, the organisation lost no time in reviewing its organisational set-up. A constitutional sub-committee which was set up for the purpose submitted its report to the conference held at Ernakulam in December 1963. While retaining the All India structure of the organisation. the conference ensured centralised functioning. While the General Secretary was in charge of organisational matters, the Joint Secretary and the Secretaries at Madras were in-charge of industrial disputes, defence and individual grievances respectively. The Secretary at Bangalore was entrusted with the liaison work at the Head Office. This enabled the organisation to pursue matters without any divergence of approach and organisational effectiveness became total and complete.
The period since Ernakulam was one of continuous organisational advance. The long outstanding issues like employment of clerks as Assistant Accountants came to be resolved determinedly and effectively. On 25th January 1964 the Union signed first settlement “On Employment of Clerks as Assistant Accountants” arid through the Settlement the Union could secure regulated prospects to the employees. Through another settlement on the same date the Union could make the management to agree to treat the cases of 50 discriminated employees for consideration of their being employed on priority basis as assistant accountants. While the union could no doubt secure this advantage to employees immediately after Ernakulam Conference, it had necessarily to resort to agitations because of the attacks of the management. The management while on the one hand was trying to contain the Union through joint conferences, on the other hand unleashed repressive actions against the employees. The struggle of Tamilnad employees against the transfers, 35 days agitations at Bangalore against threats of victimisation of office bearers at Bangalore and Madras. the determined struggle against the lock-out of a member at Raichur the wave of resentment over the attack against the office bearer at Bombay. for vigorous implementation of the work to rule movement launched by the AIBEA established beyond doubt the militancy of the membership, the organisational control over membership and effective handling of situations by the office bearers of the Union, particularly at Madras for it is they who unflinchingly made themselves available in every scene Cohesive actions against employees having failed to shake the confidence reposed by the employees in their organisatiori, the management started a systematic smear campaign against individual office bearers of the Union. During the transfer dispute, the Joint Secretary of the Union at Madras was singled out for purposes of such attack through issue of spate of circulars. Suggestions were openly made to the members to denounce the office bearers for their all these rashness. The Union countered such moves and in all these oranisational activities the management had to beat a retreat. It was during this period at the suggestion of the Managing Director of the Bank, office bearers of the Union met the Managing Director at a meeting where other directors and Deputy General Manager from Bombay were also present. While expressing his unhappiness over the series of events, the Managing Director desired earnest attempts being made by all concerned to improve staff relations so as to enable bestowing undivided attention for the development of the Bank. It was at his suggestion a joint meeting was convened at Hyderabad during August 1964 and the union was called upon by the management to submit its proposal for elimination and avoidance of friction in employer employee relations. The union submitted its proposal which among other things required of the management to reorient its policies with regard to taking disciplinary actions against employees. This joint meeting held at 1-lyderabad from 16th to 19th August was unique. This meeting resulted in the management taking measures to win the confidence of the employees by declaring moratorium on the issue of charge sheets. To remove the source of friction the management at this meeting conceded various demands of the union for which there were sustained struggles. The union also impressed upon the management the need for settling the bonus claims of the employees and could successfully arrive at negotiated settlement for additional bonus forr the years 1956-1963. The settlement for additional bonus ft the years 1956-1963 was a precedent the Union could create for the first time in the industry as a result of which spate of settlements were arrived at in other Banking institutions too which made the bank employees richer by over Rs. 5 crores. The basic position of concessions being secured through collective bargaining and as a product of struggles created greater sense of consciousness and awareness amongst the membership of the Union and a state of ever preparedness was born by the activities of the Union.
The membership of the Union while involving itself in all the activities of the Union during this period were also in the forefront in the general movement of the bank employees, whether it be campaign for nationalisation of banks or struggle in pursuance of charter of demands submitted by AIBEA consequent on the expiry of Desai Award. The wave of discontentment amongst the general bank employees manifested in the work to rule movement unleashed by the AIBEA compelled the bankers and Government to reoncile to the position wherein the peace in the industry could be established only by inviting the AIBEA0n its charter of demands. The mood of the bank employees was such that they were not in a position to accept the imposition of service conditions by a third party. Thus negotiations for industry-wise bi-partite settlement has commenced.
In 1966 the Bank celebrated its diamond jubilee. With the cooperation extended by the members, the Bank registered rapid progress crossing the deposit figure of Rs. 100 crores. This was an occasion that also could mark in the Union making yet another advance in sharing the prosperity of the Bank. The Central Committee of the Union which met at Bombay in December 1965 formulated the demand for release of 4 increments for members of the subordinate staff and 2 increments for all category of employees in their respective scales of pay and revoke all punishments imposed on employees by way of disciplinary proceedings. In pursuance of this demand the organisation initiated powerful campaign by way of tours by the office bearers. The character of the demand was such that the management had to morally accept the same and there were negotiations to clinch this issue. As a result of shrewd collective bargaining the Union could then secure a settlement the main features of which being (i) an amount of Rs. 15 lakhs would be disbursed at the mutually agreed rates called diamond jubilee allowance during the period of 2j years ending 31.12.1968 (ii) two increments to those in the subordinate staff cadre and one increment to all other category of employees would be granted to the recipients of diamond jubilee allowance as from 1.1.1969 and (iii) punishment involving stoppage of increment restored if the punishment was already undergone for a period of 3 years.
THE TEN YEAR CYCLE
If the Central Office of the Union was necessitated to be shifted from Madras to Bombay in 1957. due to the negative attitude of a section of the office bearers of the Union at Madras, in 1967 the Central Office was .shifted from Bombay to Madras owing to the attitude of the office bearers at Bombay, Hyderabad and Bangalore.
A concerted attempt of smear campaign and character assassination was made against office-bearers at Madras. The minor irritants amongst individual leading cadres grew in enormity to generate uncalled for animus and bias against individuals. Whatever efforts were made to arrest these fissures could not succeed, with the result the gap became widened. Even the efforts of the leadership of AIBEA to bring about better understanding and cohesion were of no avail, as they were spurned by H. Divakar Shenoy and K. J. Dixit. It was in this background that the 12th Conference of the Union was held at Madras in 1 967. It became evident that H. Divakar Shenoy and K. J. Dixit were bent upon following a precipituous course. When a crucial amendment for increasing the subscription was moved foi the consideration of the General Body, the then President and the then General Secretary edged their followers, and generated sharp differences among the delegates, with the result the amendment was withdrawn. Similarly they exhibited casual interest while discussing vital issues, and this resulted in sharp divergence amongst the ranks. At last at the time of elections. Divakar Shenoy, Dixit and Dayanand Nayak declined to accept positions in the organisation and this naturally resulted in the office bearers at Madras being required to hold the mantle, so as to preserve the cohesiveness of the organisation.
Shortly after the Madras Conference. Divakar Shenoy and
Dixit unfolded their plans of “operation disruption.” In the guise of
“felicitations “, they visited different centres and
collected funds for their disruptive activities. They also met the officials in
the administration. They played on the feelings of a section of the members by
whipping up the baser sentiments like groupism, sectarianism casteism and
communalism and the bogey of politics. Huge amounts were spent to spread
fabricated informations, falsehood and distortions. Hooliganism and rowdyism
were employed where the office-bearers went to address meetings of members in
different centers, especially in Bangalore and Bombay. Having failed in these
attempts, thereafter they resorted to unconstitutional methods. A so-called
“action committee” was set up by these individuals and they started to collect
signatures from members for convening an extra-ordinary general body meeting to
move a “ No confidence motion” against the
elected off ice- bearers and Members of the Central Committee.
The Central Committee which met during the period decided to convene the requisitioned extra-ordinary meeting of the General Body of the Union on 4—2—1968 to consider and dispose of the motion of lack of confidence on the office bearers and members of the Central Committee. As the finances of the Organisation were slender and meagre and convening of the extra-ordinary meeting will cost strain on the resources, the Central Committee decided to encash the Fixed Deposit Receipt for Rs. 56.500/- before maturity. Notwithstanding the fact that the extra-ordinary general body meeting was convened upon a requisition received from a section of the members as engineered by the dissidents, the dissidents did not want to participate in the said meeting. Therefore the “Action Committee” of the dissidents initiated steps to frustrate the requistioned meeting of the extra-ordinary general body at Madurai. The Action Committee issued a notice advising the members of the convening of a parallel meeting at Bangalore on 2—1—1968 to transact the business Further one among the dissidents moved the city civil court Bombay, for restraining the Bank from allowing the Union to encash the D. R. for Rs. 56.500/- before maturity. The Union contested this application by engaging an eminent Advocate but the purpose however could not be served because of the management. the third defendant in the suit offering in the Court that since allowing the payment before maturity is a discretion vested in the Bank, the Bank would not exercise the said discretion for permitting the Union to encash the D.R. Thus the Union was precluded from withdrawing the deposit despite the valid decisions of the Central Committee for meeting the expenditure of the requistioned meeting of the General Body. The notice by the “Action Committee” of the dissidents convening the requisitioned meeting of the general body at Bangalore being ultra-vires of the constitution, the Union had to seek recourse to restrain such action which was meant to threaten the integrity of the organisation. In the meanwhile the President of the Union in exercise of powers vested in him under the constitution issued a notice convening an extra-ordinary meeting of the General Body of the Union at 2 P.M. on 4-2-1 968 to consider and if thought fit adopt a motion expressing fullest and complete confidence on the office bearers and the Central Committee and duly ratifying their actions and conduct and further authorising and empowering them to finalise all the outstanding issues. The two meetings convened on 4-2-1 968 were unique in the history of the organisation. Members physically present numbered 711 and the massive participation had out-beaten all previous records. Proxies recorded were 211 in number. In the requisitioned meeting of the extra-ordinary general body the entire circumstances which led to convening of this meeting were explained. Thereafter the President requested the general body to express itself clearly and unequivocally over the contentions raised by some requisitionists and called upon the requisitionists or any one of them present to move the motion of lack of confidence given notice by them. No one came forward to move the motion despite sufficient time being provided. The President thereupon called such members present even if they had not been signatories to the requisition to move if they so desire the motion expressing lack of confidence. No member present came forward to move the motion. The President thereafter declared that the motion not having been moved stood dismissed. The extra-ordinary meeting of the general body convened by the President in terms of his notice was held at 2 P.M on 4-2-1968. About the same number of persons present in the earlier meeting were also present at the said meeting. The motion expressing fullest and complete confidence in the office bearers and members of the Central Committee and duly ratifying their actionsand conduct and further authorising and empowering them to finalise all outstanding issues pending with the management was moved by the President. The house unanimously adopted the motion.
While these were the steps taken by the Central Committee not only to preserve the democratic character of the organisation but also to preserve the integrity of the organisation, the dissidents moved in most undemocratic and unconstitutional manner threatening the very integrity of the organisation. Despite the subsisting injunction the ‘Action committee’of the dissidents went ahead with its meeting on 3-2-1968, to claim the motion given notice of for purpose of requisitioned meeting having been passed. After having initiated action totally at variance with and contrary to the rules and bye laws of the union, the dissidents at every stage of their conduct adopted unconstitutional means to carry on their purposes of disrupting the Organisation and formed a “Care Taker Body” with a view to prevent the Organisational effectiveness for tackling the issues of the employees. The said “Care Taker Body” initiated steps to legally prevent the organisation from functioning by obtaining a temporary injunction against the office bearers and Central Committee of the Union. The Union contested the suit and the correctness of the course pursued by the Central Committee despite the trials they were subjected to was vindicated by the decision of the Hon’ble Judge. City Civil Court IX, Madras. The Hon’ble Court in delivering its judgement did note make any other dicta but has clearly and unambiguously upheldthe course pursued by the members and the Central Committee in relation to rules and byelaws of the Union.
THE GAME OF DIVIDE AND RULE
Consistent with its objective to keep the employees divided. the management persistently practised its postures of abetment with divisive forces and thus keep the organisation demobilised whether it be in the case of Shri K. Narasimha Shenoy initially in the early 50’s or it be in the case of Shri K. G. Kamath in the late 50’s or it be in the case of Shri H. Divakar Shenoy in the late 60’s the continuing threat of the management’s conduct was one of generating disaffection amongst the office bearers and thus blunt the organisational effectiveness for collective bargaining. On all such occasions, the management projected the picture of pious employer very much desiring the total unity of the entire work-force in the bank. In the post Madras conference developments, the management of Canara Bank went one step further. They threw to the winds their professed neutrality. They came out in the open and asserted that a “majority” of members did not see eye to eye with the leadership. Having taken upon themselves the self-appointed task of championing the invisible “majority” they proceeded with their “operation devide and rule”. When the Union in pursuance of its organisational objectives wanted to utilise its own funds, the’ management blocked the funds. Not being content with the above mentioned acts, the management did not hesitate to invite the dissidents for talks Thus once again the management came out in their true colours.
During this period, the industrial relations in the bank reached its freezing point. In a premedidated manner, the management charge-sheeted 58 of the union’s active cadres in different branches. Several issues like bonus, review of settlements on Employment of clerk as Assistants, on promotion of employees to Routine Officers’ cadre, on promotion of subordinate staff to clerical cadre were not settled. In the process the collective bargaining machinery was subverted by the management by their unilateral acts of violation of the existing settlements by and between the union and the management as well as mal-implementation and non-implementation of the provision of the 8ipartite settlement.
But the firm resolve of the Union to resist at all costs the attacks against its members, for pursuing their legitimate trade union activities and the determined manner in which the interest of the employees ware safe guarded compelled the management not to precipitate the matter any further.
It goes again to the credit of conscious members of our
union for their high sense of perception and militancy and for having rallyed
rousingly behind their organisation to thwart all the attempts of the management.
They contributed lakhs of rupees to maintain the integrity of their
organisation. It was indeed an exhilarating experience to find the ranks
standing well poised to move doggedly and determinedly and to fight back the
offensive of the management. Never in the History of the middle-class trade
union movement, especially in the bank employees’ movement, such high degree of
involvement could ever be witnessed. The involvement was total and complete
that the membership willingly accepted that no sacrifice for purpose of
preserving the integrity of the organisation was too great.
It was again the developments in the bank employees’ movement during this period that enabled our organisation to maintain the high level of trade union consciousness of its members. After the signing of the First Bipartite Settlement in 1966, AIBEA clearly emerged as the only organisation which can deliver the goods. Much to the chagrin of the bankers and the Government AIBEA renewed its campaign for Nationalisation of banks with added vigour. Finding that the campaign launched by AIBEA was gaining momentum, Shri Morarji Desai, the then Finance Minister played a hoax on the nation by bringing forward the Social Control Bill. Besides diluting the demand for Nationalisation of banks, the Social Control Bill contained certain obnoxious provisions aimed at containing the bank employees’ movement under the banner of AIBEA. Sections 36 AD and 54 AA were incorporated in the Act to circumscribe the bank employees’ movement. In order to secure the repeal of the above mentioned provisions. AIBEA chalked out a sustained programme of agitation. Bank employees at the call of the AIBEA went on strike actions on 28-2-1968, 1-8-1968. 5.8.1958, 7-8-1966 and 21-11 -1968. In all these agitations, the members of our union participated with greater zeal.
Slowly the management realised the futility of their attempts to weaken the Canara Bank Employees’ Union. Subsequent events in the country as well as in the industry also contributed for the change in the attitude of the bank.
FROM ECONOMIC SLAVERY TO
PARTICIPATION IN MANAGEMENT
Bank employees movement was never merely an economic movement. Even while organising the bank employees into trade unions, the pioneers of the movement channelised its activities not only for securing economic rights and privileges to the bank employees but also for playing its due role in the socio-economic transformation of our country.’ Nationalisation of banks was one of the main demands of AIBEA, the achieving of which was given due importance in all its programmes.
Following the split in the ruling party at the centre, the Government nationalised 14 Indian commercial Banks on 19th July 1969. Simultaneously, Shri Morarji Desai, the then Finance Minister was dismissed from his post. The Nationalisation Act provided for representation of workmen nominees on the Boards of Directors of these banks.
It was during this period the Union met at its 13th Conference at Bangalore in 1969. The developments which were taking place in quick succession galvanised the entire rank and file and with this mood they marched massively to Bangalore to participate in the 13th Conference of the union. Realising the invincibility of the organisation, the management retraced its steps by unconditionally withdrawing all the charge- sheets served on the activists of the membership of the union for having enabled the organisation to establish its supremacy in all spheres of its activities. Whether it be conducting negotiations with the management, whether it be conducting struggles to safe-guard the interests of the employees, or whether it be tackling attempts made to disrupt our organisation the organisation displayed its outstanding qualities and capabilities.
Following its action in withdrawing the charge-sheets against the employees the management returned to the negotiating table. Various settlements such as “Bonus for the years 1967, 1968 and 1969.” Employment of clerks to special Assistants, promotion of employees to Routine Officers’ Cadre— Grade IV were entered into by and between the management and the union during the period 1969 to 1971 i.e. between 13th Conference and 14th Conference. In the meanwhile, when the Supreme Court struck down the Nationalisation Act, the bank employees weni on a countrywide protest action against the judgement of the Supreme Court. The Government moved speedily -and enacted a new Act in the place of the impugned legislation. This set at rest the machinations of the vested interest who tried to set at naught the nationalisation Act.
The glorious role played by our national organization. AIBEA in support of nationalisation of banks by the Government stood us in good stead. Once again AIBEA proved its mettle by compelling the bankers-and the Government to sign the Second Bipartite Settlemet in ctober 1970. Thus AIBEA became the sole bargaining agent in the banking industry.
After the re-enactment of the Nationalisation Act, the Government proceeded with the verification scheme for deciding the representative organisation in each of 14 nationalised banks. It was a unique experience for us to find that in 12 banks AIBEA Unions were declared the representative organisations, consequently in 12 banks AIBEA nominees were appointed on the boards. In our bank too, the representative of our union was nominated as the workman representative on the board.
With the advent of nationalisation and the Canara Bank Employees’ Union having been recognised as the representative organisation in the bank, the administration could no longer practise its pronounced positions at disruption. It has to essentially maintain its public posture of maintaining the industrial relations with the recognised and representative organisation in the bank. All the same the management only changed its tactics.
This time the management adopted yet another method to keep the employees divided. Taking advantage of the traditional outlook of the officer—employees, the management promoted a cadre-wise organisation to represent this distinct section of employees, and accorded recognition to it. It is clear that the aim of the employer is to prevent total unification at all costs. It therefore requires a great deal of perseverance on our part to patiently pursue the goal of total unification. For an organisation which could compel an employer to recognise its representative character by having its nominee at the Board level, the day is not far off for the very same organisation to achieve the task of unifying the entire work—force under its banner.
THE VIJAYAWADA CONFERENCE
In 1963, when the union met in its Conference at Vijayawada, the question before the organisation at that time was ‘will Vijayawada show the way?” In fact, the 1963 Vijayawada Conference provided to be a mile stone for it provided the necessary clarity on vital issues facing the organisation. In 1914, the XV Conference of the union held at Vijayawada again proved to be a momentous one in the chequered history of our organisation.
The Vijayawada Conference, set the following organisational tasks that are to be undertaken by its members to commemorate the Silver Jubilee of the organisation:
1.To create an educational endowment for imparting to its cadres the required and necessary education about the trade union, its philosophy and its functions;
2.To secure a building to house the union at its Registered Office and in Bangalore;
3.To found holiday homes for the use of its members and general bank employees at four centres in the States of Kerala, Maharashtra, Tamilnadu and in one of the States in the Northern part of the country;
4.To celebrate the Silver Jubilee of the organisation in a most befitting manner at all centres and centrally at Madras by holding the XVI conference at that centre during that period;
5.To honour the pioneers of the movement in the bank by presenting to all past office bearers a suitable memento on the said occasion;
6.Adoption of six villages in different States for purposes of fulfilling the objectives of nationalisation
The Vijayawada Conference of our Union marked our emerging more cohesive, more united, more militant and more convinced to carry out tasks of ceaselessly striving to unite all sections of employees under its banner.
SILVER JUBILEE AND OUR TASKS
Twenty five years have rolled by. Since then vast changes have taken place at the industrial, institutional and organisational levels.
This is our Silver Jubilee Year—A year in the life of the organisation which rightly determines the destinies of all employees in the bank. As a responsible trade union organisation, it has set about to fulfil the tasks placed before it by the Vijayawada Conference held in 1974.
Conscious of the hurdles and difficulties to be surmounted for celebrating its Silver Jubilee, the union steadfastly started implementing the tasks one by one.
The union acquired buildings at Kodaikanal (Tamilnadu). and Bombay for the purpose of providing “Holiday Homes ”. On 18th April. 1976. the Ht4iday Homes at both these places were declared open and they were named after late Com. H. L. Parwana.
Similarly, the organisation conducted the AU India Sports and Athletic Meet in Madras from 6th May to 9th May 1976. in a grand manner. More than 200 persons participated in the events. The sports meet was unique in many respects. No other trade union organisation have so far conducted a sports meet in such an exemplary manner. We can say without hesitation that by this conduct of national sports meet, our union has achieved organisational perfection to bring out the latents of the employees of the bank. For the first time in the history of our organisation, the following prizes were awarded in the national sports meet.
1.“Parwana Memorial Rolling Cup1’ for the best over al performance to the contingent (instituted by the Union).
2.“A. Subba Rao Pal Memorial Cup” awarded for “Man of the Meet” in Athletics. (Trophy donated by the bank).
3.“Mrs. Meera Kar Trophy” awarded for the “Woman of the Meets” (instituted by the Union).
4.Three rolling shields for the three departments, Viz., Table Tennies, Badminton and thletics awarded to the best team in each department.
5.Certificates of Merit and individual cups to all winners, runners up and third performers in all events
On 10th May, 1976, the day when the Union completed its 25th year of its life, the foundation stone for “A.K. NAYAK BHAVAN,” the Central Office of the Union was laid.
25 years in the life of a trade union organisation represent an eventful period, especially in the case of our Union.
It has fulfilled its basic role of not only organising the employees of the bank into a trade union, but also has taught them how to secure their rights and privileges.
In this long march of history, we have become battle- scarred.
Every success testified the correctness of our strategy. Every set-back enabled us to review our actions and rectify our mistakes.
Successes did not sway us away from our ideals.
Set-backs did not dampen our determination.
On the contrary they steeled us further and made to realise as to how arduous the role of a trade union is.
When we recapitulate history, we are fully conscious that history is not a mere narration of events.
It reminds us of the past it spurs us into purposeful activity for the present and it makes us optimists about the future.
Whether it be the history of a nation or an institution or an organization, the fact remains that it is a constant process unifying the people wherever they may be.
In this historical task, let each and every one of our members rededicate themselves so that the posterity will always remember them as those who have contributed their best for the