The AFL-CIO, citing a need to "establish and maintain lines of communication," has initiated a program of confidential luncheon meetings with officials of the Reagan administration -- recently the target of strong verbal attacks from federation President Lane Kirkland.

The first meeting, attended by Vice President George Bush, Kirkland and four members of the AFL-CIO's executive board, was held last week at the federation's headquarters here.

White House and federation sources said that Bush's two-hour meeting with the union leaders was devoted to general policy discussions affecting labor matters and mutual expressions of regret that, according to one AFL-CIO source, "communications weren't working very well between us."

Indeed, they weren't. On May 7 at the quarterly meeting of his executive board in Baltimore, Kirkland excoriated the Reagan administration in general and Labor Secretary Raymond J. Donovan in particular for not consulting with labor leaders "before taking steps that to to the heart of our concerns -- concerns that we think we have a right to be consulted on."

Kirkland cited Reagan's push to reduce federal trade adjustment assistance to unemployed workers and to change laws affecting workers' safety and health as examples of what he said was the administration's tendency to act without hearing labor's views.

According to AFL-CIO spokesman Allen Zack, however, both sides recognized that "communication was a problem" and sought to take steps to correct it.