Contracts negotiated for nearly 550,000 American workers in the first quarter of this year produced net first-year pay cuts averaging 1.4 percent, the Labor Department reported yesterday.

The government said it was the first time such a development has occurred since records were kept.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics noted that the wage concessions were due mainly to conditions in the unionized steel industry, where some 260,000 workers accepted pay cuts early this year.

Overall, the bureau said, the collective bargaining agreements negotiated for the more than half-million workers will furnish wage increases averaging 2.2 percent over the next three years, the smallest gain since the government began tracking these settlements 15 years ago.

MORE POWER TO YOU: Potomac Electric Power Co. President W. Reid Thompson told shareholders yesterday that use of electricity by Pepco customers increased 2.1 percent last year despite a 1.8 percent decline nationally in electricity consumption.

Thompson also told the annual shareholders meeting here that the company now uses coal to generate 92 percent of its power, compared with 56 percent in 1973. The savings have been considerable, he said, noting that coal-fired power costs $1.90 per million BTU compared with a cost of $4.54 per million BTU for oil-fired power.

The company's planned expenditure for construction as a percentage of total expenditures is one of the smallest among major utilities, Thompson said. He said the company will continue to emphasize load management and plant renovation as alternatives to expensive new construction.

STILL IN ONE PIECE: Stockholders of the Trans World Corp. yesterday defeated "by a substantial margin" a New York investment group's proposal to spin off individual companies within the multifaceted holding company.

L. Edwin Smart, chairman of the board and president of Trans World, said figures in the proxy vote will likely be announced at a May 4 meeting of the corporation's officers.

Since last December, Odyssey Partners has openly proposed a breakup of the holding company, claiming Trans World would be worth far more to its stockholders if its subsidiaries were spun off as separate companies.

A spokesman for Odyssey said the partnership did not view the vote as a defeat. Lester Pollack said that, "based solely on the proxies we have received, it is clear that Trans World's stockholders have sent a strong message to their board of directors. We trust that the board will now, after this vote, seriously consider the stockholders' wishes and study and report on the benefits of a separation program."

Trans World is the parent company of Trans World Airlines, Hilton International Co., Century 21 Real Estate Corp., Canteen Corp. and Spartan Food Systems Inc.

TRY, TRY AGAIN: Geico Corp. yesterday made a new offer to buy out minority shareholders in its partially owned subsidiary, Government Employees Financial Corp., raising its bid for Gefco by almost 80 percent.

Geico, which earlier tried to buy full ownership of Gefco for $11 a share, offered to pay $19.75 a share cash for the common stock of Gefco and $22.57 a share for the preferred stock of Gefco. Geico already owns 78.8 percent of the common and 29.1 percent of the preferred stock of Gefco, a Denver firm that is in the small loan and industrial financing business. Minority shareholders rejected the initial offer earlier this year.