Japan workers strike over sale of department store to US investment group

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On the morning of Thursday, Japan experienced its first strike since 1960. This strike was triggered by the sale of Seibu, a Japanese retail giant Seven & i subsidiary, to Fortress Investment Group, based in the US. Workers’ concerns primarily revolve around the possibility of job cuts and the need for assurances regarding job security and the continuity of business operations, which ultimately led to a one-day strike.

Ryuichi Isaka, the President of Seven & i, publicly expressed his regrets on Thursday, acknowledging the disruptions caused to customers and stakeholders. Media reports indicate that despite the apology, the board of Seven & i decided to sell the company to Fortress on Thursday, with significant consequences for the company and the workforce. The strike was the culmination of a long-running dispute between the Sogo & Seibu union and management at Seven & i. The company has faced sustained pressure from ValueAct, an activist investor based in the United States, urging it to divest from non-core businesses.

Union Chief Yasuhiro Teraoka emphasized, “the union is not convinced if the sale plan is based on business continuity and ensuring the preservation of workers’ jobs.” Following the acquisition, Fortress is slated to sell Sogo & Seibu assets for nearly 300 billion yen ($2.06 billion) to utilize the proceeds to repay loans obtained for the purchase.