It involves a memorandum of understanding between the STUC and the Association of Scottish Colleges. Both sides hope that the move will put an end to the atmosphere of industrial unrest and grievance which has plagued the sector since incorporation and the end of national bargaining.
Tom Kelly, chief executive of the ASC, said the agreement was "a step forward", while Mary Senior, assistant secretary of the STUC, said the unions were "pleased".
The agreement was signed in the presence of Nicol Stephen, Lifelong Learning Minister, during the Scottish Executive's "round table" meeting involving the usual interests, such as the ASC, the STUC, the National Union of Students and the Scottish Funding Council.
The memorandum is described as "more than just a protocol for future joint working but also the basis for developing practical methods of commitment and engagement".
The move does not give the unions, principally the Educational Institute of Scotland, what they chiefly prize - the return to collective national bargaining - but it does commit both sides to "sector-wide policies and initiatives" and to "effective workplace relationships".
Meanwhile, the ASC has called on the Executive to establish an entitlement to lifelong learning for all, not just those who are in full-time advanced education.