UNISON members working in further education in England are to be consulted over an offer from the employer of 1%, or £250, whichever is the greater.
Wages in the sector have fallen by over 25% in the past decade. When negotiations opened in July, the unions asked for 5% or £1,500, whichever was greater.
The Association of Colleges suggested that it wanted to make a substantial award but that that depended on funding from central government to pay for it.
In August, the association was told that no new funding would be made available – and the government has since tried to divert attention by suggesting that there is widespread financial mismanagement in the sector.
The employer has said it will continue to push the Treasury to fund a higher pay award that should match the 3.5% that has been offered to school teachers.
The latest offer also acknowledges that a higher one should be made if it can be afforded by a college, but that some colleges will not be able to afford to offer anything at all.
UCU members in colleges have already taken strike action and UNISON will now launch a consultative ballot in January to ask members if they would be prepared to take strike action themselves, or action short of a strike.