Lecturers at most colleges in England vote this week on whether to go on strike over the pay gap between themselves and schoolteachers.
Lecturers' union Natfhe said four fifths of colleges will take part in the ballot on Friday, although the Association of Colleges, representing employers, predicted only a "small number" will be hit by industrial action.
Barry Lovejoy, head of colleges at Natfhe, said: "Pay chaos has reigned in colleges for far too long. By accepting this year's pitiful pay offer, Natfhe would have effectively been giving the green light for the scandalous gap between lecturers and schoolteachers to grow even bigger.
"Lecturers at 65 per cent of colleges haven't even had last year's rise."
Natfhe rejected the offer of a 2.8 per cent pay rise for 2005-06, claiming that it would be a "backward step" in the campaign to close what is believed to be a 10 per cent pay gap between schools and colleges.
The AoC and Natfhe have both been lobbying for equal funding of schools and colleges.
The funding gap for 16 to 18-year-old students was put at 13 per cent in recent research by the Learning and Skills Development Agency.
Sue Dutton, deputy chief executive of the AoC, said: "We anticipate that a small number of colleges will experience industrial action on November 16.
"We would argue that this will be as a consequence of them experiencing financial difficulties due to the current funding regime."
If the ballot returns a "yes" vote, a one-day national strike is planned for November 16 and there will be a rally in Birmingham, to coincide with Education Secretary Ruth Kelly's appearance at the AoC annual conference in the city.
* Natfhe this week welcomed an agreement with the Government which means that all existing lecturers keep the right to retire at the age of 60 on their full pension.