Lecturers will strike at colleges next Thursday - the same day that schoolteachers stage separate action over pay.
Unlike the teachers, further education staff have voted in favour of open- ended action, which could result in additional strikes over the 6 per cent pay claim without the need for a further ballot.
The University and College Union (UCU) said it was confident the day of action would be widely observed among lecturers. In the ballot of 27,500 lecturers in 257 colleges, the 38 per cent turnout voted about two-to-one (65.5 per cent) in favour of a strike.
Barry Lovejoy, head of colleges at the union, said: "People well understand the issues, and I'm sure they will respond positively to the action as they have done in the past".
Further action could follow next week's strike, depending on the outcome of talks planned for May 1.
As well as striking on the same day as the National Union of Teachers' (NUT), the lecturers' action coincides with a strike by the Public and Commercial Services union, representing civil servants, as unrest increases over public sector pay.
Lecturers in colleges have long protested that they are paid about 10 per cent less than teachers, and there are concerns in FE, including the new professional body, the Institute for Lecturers, that the even bigger pay gap between trade occupations and lecturing in related vocational subjects could prove an obstacle to recruitment.
The UCU said all members ought to receive a rise of 6 per cent or pound;1,500, whichever is the greater, for 2008-09, and has reiterated its complaint that no lecturers get the allowances enjoyed by half of schoolteachers, which boost salaries by up to pound;11,557 a year.
Sally Hunt, general secretary of the UCU, said: "The considerable difference in the average pay of lecturers and teachers doing the same work is grossly unfair. The treatment of FE staff is a scandal. Pay has been further eroded by below-inflation awards."
The NUT, UCU and the National Union of Students recently joined forces in a campaign against the increasing use of the market place and private sector competition in the education system.
The UCU says principals' salaries have increased by 22 per cent in two years.
Sue Dutton, acting chief executive of the Association of Colleges (AoC), said: "Colleges are disappointed that the UCU has called its members out to strike on Thursday over the 2008-09 pay claim. The action is unprecedented, as it is being called before national pay negotiations have even begun.
"Despite the decision, AoC is still committed to national pay negotiations, which are due to start May 1."
The union said only half of colleges had honoured deals to narrow the gap with school teachers. While unions negotiate with the AoC, pay deals are not binding on colleges, leading to secondary disputes involving colleges that have claimed they cannot afford to pay up.
STRB warning, TES page 8.