UNIONS have agreed a one-day strike in the new year if pay negotiations fail to move towards pay parity with schoolteachers.
Natfhe, the lecturers' union, says the action will only be called off if the Association of Colleges can improve significantly on its 2.3 per cent offer. Joint action was agreed this week in a meeting with Unison, which represents support staff, and the Association of Teachers and Lecturers.
Barry Lovejoy, of Natfhe, said: "Our new year's wish is for an end to this damaging dispute in FE colleges, but the ball is firmly in the AoC's court.
"Education Secretary Charles Clarke announced a pound;1.2 billion Christmas present for the FE sector, which should make a fair settlement possible and further disruption avoidable."
Christina McAnea, of Unison, said: "It is bitterly disappointing that we go into 2003 with pay still unresolved. I hope that the AoC will come to the negotiations on January 13 with serious intentions to satisfy the needs of low-paid staff."
Natfhe wants a settlement which will make a start on closing what it says is a 12 per cent pay gap with schoolteachers.
All three unions have advised their branches not to accept local deals while they continue to try to pin down a national offer.