MOSCOW--Edelman’s decision to restructure its Russian operation is facing opposition from a trade union in the country.

The US firm has overhauled its senior management line-up and laid off 11 of its 55 staffers in Russia. The moves have drawn sharp criticism from the ‘Solidarity’ trade union, which was formed two years ago to represent MNC employees in Russia.

A Solidarity spokesman claims that eight Edelman staffers have formed a labor union, and that another five are in the process of joining. The spokesman added that the union will commence legal action against Edelman. “The Interregional Solidarity Union intends to defend the rights of the labor union members representing the position of the employees of Edelman.”

Edelman EMEA CEO Robert Phillips told the Holmes Report that “a number of employees are unhappy with the restructuring that has taken place in our business.”

“Edelman has been fully compliant throughout this process, will remain fully compliant, and is committed to transparency in everything we say and do,” added Phillips.

However, Edelman Moscow project director Alexander Sokolov, one of the employees to have been laid-off, hit back at Phillips' statement.

"Sure, we are 'unhappy', however, not with the restructuring itself but with the unfair way we were treated," said Sokolov, who joined the firm in 1997. "Restructuring is business, we do not deal with the business of it. What concerns us is the moral side of it." 

Edelman acquired Russian firm Imageland from founder Veronica Moihseeva in 2008. Moihseeva has now stepped down to take on an advisory role; she has been succeeded as general director by Kerry Irwin, a Russia veteran who returns to the country after three years as a senior advisor to the Abu Dhabi Critical National Infrastructure Authority.

Other appointments include Natalya Malyova as SVP of digital and technology; and Svetlana Plotnitskaya, who is promoted to SVP after 14 years with the firm.

“The most important thing from our point-of-view is we are absolutely committed to the Russian market and to our clients,” added Phillips. “We were not best-organised and did not have the right talent to face the future.”

Solidarity has suggested that Edelman management “threatened” laid-off staff members. Phillips branded the claim “ridiculous.”

“Our new mission is to build a cooperative, collaborative team atmosphere and an office that is a positive addition to the Edelman global network,” said Irwin. “Our goal is to become the agency of choice in Russia, by providing consistently excellent service and thought leadership to clients both locally and across the network.”

The sub-region is now overseen by Chris Dobson, who joined Edelman as GM of strategic and emerging markets last year.

Solidarity was created "in response to the consistently aggressive policy run by employers and their associations on workers' rights," according to its spokesman. Current union members include employees of labor organizations from such companies as Nestle, Philip Morris and Heineken.