Hyundai Heavy Industries has finally reached agreement over a 27-month wage dispute with unionised workers at its yards in South Korea.

The local Yonhap News agency reported that 65% of its 7215 unionised workers voted in favour of the tentative deal, which is expected to be signed off within days.

Hyundai employs about 20,000 workers including sub-contractors.

The agreement includes a basic pay rise of 46,000 won ($40.3) for 2019, 51,000 won for last year, plus special bonuses for the past two years and other benefits.

It was reported that each unionised worker would get 18 million won ($15,700) in back pay, which equates to a total of some $113 million.

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The deal ends a protracted dispute between the contractor and its unionised workers that had been ongoing since negotiations started back in May 2019.

Since then, union members at its Ulsan yard had rejected two proposals and staged various strikes.

Earlier this month, workers at Hyundai again downed tools amid the then-unresolved wage dispute.

Union leaders also occupied a 40-metre-high crane at the yard, demanding management proposes a tangible solution to the wage dispute.

Hyundai chief executive Han Young-seok recently said the company would reform the wage system around the basic pay and will make employee compensations proportional to the profits it earns.

The workers’ union reportedly said it would make preparations to negotiate a 2021 wage deal after the Korean summer holidays in August.

Unionised workers at Hyundai's Ulsan fabrication facilities have staged a series of strikes since May 2019 over the pay dispute and, more recently, to protest against the planned merger between Hyundai and compatriot Daewoo Shipbuilding & Marine Engineering (DSME).

The deal, which would create a South Korean offshore and marine mega-contractor, is subject to approval from anti-competition regulators in several nations and the European Union.

Hyundai has moved to acquire a majority 55.72% stake in DSME, a merger which the EU has delayed reviewing several times, citing the challenges of the coronavirus pandemic.

Meanwhile, Japan has this year filed a petition with the World Trade Organization, accusing South Korea of providing unfair subsidies, including loans and finance guarantees, to its yards, in particular DSME.

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