LECTURERS went on strike for three days at Sheffield College after it refused to guarantee a national pay deal will be implemented.
The Association of Colleges and unions have returned to the negotiating table over lecturers' claim for pay parity with school teachers, but Sheffield staff wanted a local assurance that any national deal would be honoured by their college.
Natfhe, whose Sheffield branch voted for the action which ended on Thursday, says similar local strikes could happen elsewhere as colleges are not bound to accept nationally-agreed pay increases.
Paul Mackney, general secretary of Natfhe, the lecturers' union, said:
"They (his Sheffield members) are only asking for a guarantee that the college will abide by the results of national bargaining.
"This dispute highlights the problems that exist when funding for colleges doesn't feature money earmarked for pay. If the employers and the Government don't address this problem, we will see more action by college staff."
But the Department for Education and Skills said as recently as November that there are no plans for England to follow the example of Northern Ireland in having binding national pay negotiations.
John Taylor, Sheffield College's principal, said: "I cannot, and will not, commit to an unqualified pay award which could set the college back and result in a return to the days of lurching from one financial crisis to another."
Lecturers say they have helped turn Sheffield's fortunes around despite redundancies. The branch says members are 2 per cent behind colleagues elsewhere as previous pay rises were not awarded in full.
The strike coincided with an Ofsted inspection at the college.
National strike action was suspended last month after what Mr Mackney described as a "very generous funding offer" by Charles Clarke. The new Education Secretary increased total college spending from its present level of pound;4.4 billion to pound;5.6 bn in 2006.