Reports say more than 70 per cent of the 45,000-member guild voted in favour of empowering Hyundai's union leader Moon Yong Moon to stage walkouts.
Moon's history with Hyundai is chequered, with Moon being laid off three times (1992, 1995 and 1998) amid labor protests of the 1990s.
Workers at Hyundai's sister-brand Kia also followed suit, voting in favour of strike action for the first time since 2009. The result will see workers from both manufacturers go on an eight-hour stoppage today with any further walkouts yet to be announced.
According to the Hyundai Motor union, workers are calling for a 151,696 won ($130) monthly pay increase, a 30 per cent return of company net income in the form of employee bonuses and a switch to two eight-hour shifts at Hyundai Motor's manufacturing plants from the double 12-hour rotation system currently employed.
With South Korean plants only accounting for 46 per cent of Hyundai's total production capacity in 2011 – previously 60 percent in 2008 and 93 per cent in 2000 – and production now spread across the US, China, India and Turkey, any future strike action should see minimal disruptions in overall productivity.
Reports suggest a 12-day walkout in 2008 cost the company an estimated 44,645 vehicles and 691 billion won ($591 million).
Hyundai Motors has sold 2.2 million vehicles worldwide in the first six months of this year, a 12 per cent increase on 2011.