Hundreds of federal workers down-graded within the last two years will get substantial retroactive pay raises sometime in early 1979. All the employees were victims of no-fault down-gradings stemming from either reorganization or reclassification of their jobs.

Nobody knows for sure how many civil servants will qualify for the payments. But the number could be large, and the amount of money they get will be equal to about 3 percent of their bbase salary.

The money to be paid is for withingrade (longevity) raises the workers would have been entitled to if they had not been hit with no-fault demotions. Few of the employes actually lost money in the downgradings, but all were moved down the grade ladder.

Each year about 1 in every 5 federal workers get a longevity pay raise. The increases are virtually automatic, since the only requisite is that employes meet "an acceptable level of competence." Ninety-nine of every 100 workers with enough time in grade gets the raise.

But some employes hit by demotions (other than for cause) during the past two years missed out on the in-grade raises. The new civil service reform act that goes into effect next month provides new grade and pay retention that will benefit workers demoted since Jan. 1, 1977, and those who will be demoted in future.

When the new law goes into effect (Jan. 11, 1979. for this provision) victims of no-fault demotions will be "repromoted to the higher grade" they formerly held, and will begin "a 2-year period of grade retention followed by indefinite pay retention."

The grade and pay retention provisions will be retroactive to Jan. 1, 1977. Under, it, employes will get the pay and benefits they would have received during that two-year period (or back to whenever the demotion took effect) had they not been reduced in grade.

Once that is done, employes will begin a two-year period of grade retention that will be followed by indefinite pay retention.

After the two-year grade retention is up (unless of course the employe has been promoted) he or she will revert to the "downgraded" job level. But the employe's pay will not be cut back to the new lower grade level. The entitlement to "pay retention" is indefinite.

But the worker in that slot will be limited to 150 percent of the maximum rate to the grade to which he or she is demoted. While on pay retention, the employe will get only half of the regular annual pay rise other federal workers get. So eventually the employe's pay will fall in line with the new lower grade without the worker suffering more than a 50 percent shutout at pay raise time.

The pay-grade retention isn't perfect from the worker's standpoint. In some ways it is less generous than originally promised by the Carter administration. But by private industry standards it is most generous, and certainly an improvement over the current system.

Scooped Again, Cramer! This column is happy to report an exclusive John Cramer is alive, well and living near Annapolis. The Washington Star columnist who (along with Joseph Young) covers federal news, had been ailing and in the hospital for tests. But doctors have given Cramer a clean bill of health. A lot of people will be gald to hear that, including John. Even if he did have to read it in the Other Paper.