The 21,000 craft, trade and laboring employees of the government here will be getting an average 8.25 per cent pay raise (that is 55 cents an hour) effective next Sunday.

Increases for those workers were announced yesterday by Defense, the largest employer of blue-collar workers in the Washington area. The pay will go to all blue-collar workers in all agencies.

The average boost for blue-collar supervisors will be 7.99 per cent (or 76 cents a hour). Defense officials say rates range from 19 cents an hour in the lowest blue-collar pay grades to 66 cents an hour for the typical journeyman in grade 10.

Whistle-blowers of the government, rejoice! Maybe.

If legislation can help, then civil servants who know where the bodies are buried soon may have a safe, private place to go and tell about illegal actions they have observed. They don't have a place now.

Today, at noon, three members of Congress will outline a bill that would create the machinery federal workers could use to expose - safely - corruption and waste in government.

Many federal workers have blown the whistle on illegal or improper actions in their agencies. Many have also had their careers cut short or sandbagged for trying it. They've suffered everything from bureaucratic exile to medical discharges for trying to be good taxpayers. That's because many of the things they expose make their bosses look dumb, or crooked, or both.

A. Ernest Fitzgerald, the most famous whistle-blower told Congress and the media about a multibillion dollar cost overrun involving Pentagon payments for the C5A aircraft. For his trouble, Fitzgerald was the subject of a one-man layoff. It took years - and several hundred-thousand dollars in lawyers fees - for Fitzgerald to get back into government. And he was lucky. He had a sympathetic press and lots of help from the American Civil Liberties Union and its lawyers. And he was right. Not everybody is as "lucky" as Fitzgerald.

To make it possible - and less painful - for government workers to point out warts in their agencies, Reps. Morris K. Udall (D-Ariz.) and Paul Simon (D-I11.) want to create an independent board. It would hear complaints and investigate them, guaranteeing protection in the process. Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), who has been studying the problem, will introduce the bill in the Senate.

They will spell out details at a press conference today in Room S-238 (Senate side) of the Capitol.

If they can pull it off (and this means getting White House support), Udall-Leahy-Simon sould be doing a lot of people a service. Government workers know better than most people what is happening to the taxpayers' money. Many of them have interesting stories about misuse of funds, coverups and the like, in agencies. Most are afraid to talk, for good reason. But they are also significant taxpayers, and they ought to have machinery available to protect them when they try to tell their stories.