The U.S. Postal Service says it would have to charge you 40 cents for a first-class stamp if it gave unions the compensation package they have proposed as the price of signing a new contract. The current three-year agreement expires in seven days, and the two unions representing most of the 600,000 postal workers have a no-contract no-work mandate from their membership.

Postal officials say the package would raise the average worker's total annual compensation (pay and benefits) from $23,300 to $47,700 by the end of 1983. The official USPS response to the package is that it is "excessively high" and "rife with featherbedding proposals" and would destroy the service's ability to automate or manage. The increases, USPS says, do not include wage proposals which will come later this week. USPS says the benefit changes alone would double the postal payroll, and that is before any pay demands have been received.

Unions say the postmaster general deliberately delayed bargaining talks for nearly seven weeks in hopes of forcing workers who cannot legally strike to swallow a last-minute turkey that could trigger a wildcat walkout.

If the parties are as far apart as their public statements indicate, settlement before the deadline could be accurately termed a long-shot proposition.