White collar federal workers would be limited to a 12 percent pay raise over the next three years--4 percent this October, 4 percent in 1983 and 4 percent in 1984--under the Republican budget cleared by the House late Thursday.

Federal and military retirees would be allowed to get a full cost-of-living catch-up adjustment next March.

The House, in adopting the GOP plan, rejected slightly more generous pay proposals contained in a Democratic version of the budget, and the original budget President Reagan submitted earlier this year. Both plans, which were defeated by a coalition of Republicans and conservative Democrats, called for a 5 percent U.S. pay raise this year.

The ultimate size of the federal pay and pension adjustments will be decided later this month when Senate and House conferees meet to work out a compromise budget for the fiscal year that begins Oct. 1.

It is still a tossup as to how much of a raise, if any, the Washington area's 300,000 white collar civilian feds, or the 100,000 U.S. retirees will get.

The budget already approved by the Senate bars any federal pay increase for 1982, and it would make retirees wait until March 1984 for their next COL raise and limit it to 4 percent.

Senate and House leaders predict a "rough" conference, not only on federal pay and annuity matters, but also on other spending priorities and tax plans.

The House budget also calls for a 2 percent reduction in federal jobs over the next three years. It is impossible to translate that into people, or to predict how many of the reductions could be accomplished by laying off people.

Although "only" about 2,900 federal workers have been riffed in metro Washington since the start of the Reagan administration, the number of federal jobs here has dropped about 20,000, to a total of about 447,000, during that time period.

Federal union leaders and their friends in Congress hope to get the maximum pay raise out of the Senate-House conference (a raise of 4 percent) and they also hope to persuade the Senate to go along with the House budget, which provides for "uncapped" cost-of-living raises for retirees.

When the Senate and House name their members to the conference committee, we will publish their names so you can let them know how you feel about the two major bread-and-butter issues here: pay and retirement.