Some 10,000 BBC employees are to vote on whether to strike in a dispute about wages and pensions.
Last year the BBC saved £105m after introducing a number of cuts
Union officials said staff were angered by the level of salaries of top managers when most workers were being offered pay rises of 2.6%.
Unions also oppose plans to change the pension scheme and the loss of more than 1,100 jobs in the past year.
Bectu, Amicus and the National Union of Journalists will send out ballot papers next week, with the results in August.
On Friday, the corporation's annual report revealed director general Mark Thompson was paid £619,000 in the last financial year.
But he declined a bonus for a second successive year.
Mr Thompson said putting himself forward for a bonus "wouldn't feel right" after implementing an internal scheme known as Creative Future.
This has streamlined the corporation to prepare it for the digital age, resulting in 3,780 job cuts and the restructuring of various departments.
BBC MANAGERS' PAY 2005-6
Mark Thompson, director general - £619,000
Mark Byford, deputy director general - £456,000
John Smith, chief operating officer, BBC Worldwide - £444,000
Jana Bennett, director of television - £353,000
Zarin Patel, group finance director - £324,000
Jenny Abramsky, director of radio - £322,000
Caroline Thomson, director of strategy - £317,000
Ashley Highfield, director of new media - £311,000
Source: BBC annual report 2004-5
More than 2,000 of the corporation's 23,500 staff are expected to lose their jobs in 2006-7.
The BBC also plans to close its final salary pension scheme to new employees.
It wants to raise the retirement age from 60 to 65 and increase staff contributions to pensions.
NUJ general secretary Jeremy Dear said senior executives at the corporation "cannot be surprised by the immense anger with which their actions have been met by hard-working staff".
"The fact that money can be found to reward managers who have axed jobs, cut programme budgets and presided over a pensions fiasco, but cannot be found to save vital jobs in current affairs, shows where the current BBC management's priorities lie," he said.
"Their shame-faced refusal to negotiate simply adds to the sense that there is one law for fat cat bosses and another for dedicated BBC staff."
The BBC said it was "disappointed" by the decision to ballot.
"We recognise that it's been a difficult time for staff, given the changes we need to make to continue to serve our audiences," a statement said.
"We are concerned that any industrial action would affect those viewers and listeners. We're disappointed considering the progress that has jointly been made in reducing the number of compulsory redundancies."
Earlier on Monday, BBC chairman Michael Grade defended the executives' pay rises, saying the corporation had to match commercial wages to keep the best people.
Jeremy Dear of the NUJ has accused BBC management of hypocrisy
"Pretty well everybody in the BBC works for less than they could in the private sector," he said. "There is no reason why their loyalty should be punished."
Mr Grade said he was "very sorry" that people objected to the salary increases, but it was BBC policy "to pay the market median".
In May 2005, a 24-hour strike resulted in disruption to television, radio and online output, particularly live news programming.
At the time, the BBC said 38% of staff due to work that day had joined the walkout, though unions said they believed up to 55% had taken part.
The action was in protest at the proposed introduction of the Creative Future scheme and plans to privatise parts of the BBC, which unions said were "savage" and would "decimate programmes [and] devalue the BBC".