The government's 35,000 engineers, medical personnel, clerical workers and others paid "special rates" may not get the same 4.8 percent increase that went into effect earlier this month for most of Uncle Sam's 1 million white-collar workers.

Nationwide the government pays people in some hard-to-fill jobs more than their colleagues in the same GS grade. Most special pay rates are assigned to professional occupations on a nationwide basis. However, in some cities -- Detroit and San Francisco among them -- some clerical workers get more money (because of pay competition from the private sector locally) than do their counterparts in Washington, or elsewhere.

Normally the so-called special-rate people -- and there are thousands of them in metropolitan Washington -- get the same percentage October pay raise as other civil servants. But there is no law that says they must get the same size raise, and many this year may get less.

The Office of Personnel Management is conducting a survey of special pay rates for all jobs and in all localities. OPM hopes to complete the review by December. Then it will advise individuals and agencies how much of the 4.8 percent raise -- some, all or none -- will be allocated for each occupation.