Watch for pro-federal worker members of Congress (there are a few of them) to push legislation setting up limited collective bargaining for white-collar civil servants.

Currently 643,000 of the government's 2.8 million workers bargain directly with management for raises and fringe benefits. The vast majority of the employes under contract (98 percent) work for the U.S. Postal Service or the Tennessee Valley Authority.

Last week the General Accounting Office confirmed what most people knew: that union contract raises for postal workers have been bigger and better than white-collar raises controlled by Congress and the president.

Over the last nine years postal workers' pay has jumped 123 percent while federal white-collar employes' pay went up 69 percent. During that period the cost of living rose 113 percent.

The once big gap between the average white-collar salary (about $23,000) and the average postal salary (just over $21,000) is closing fast.

In addition to getting better pay raises, postal workers (8 of every 10 belong to unions) got a $150 thank you from the USPS for accepting a new contract that includes inflation protection, job security and health premium payments unknown to white-collar civil servants.

Example: The current three-year contract between the USPS and its half-million rank-and-file workers provides 13 raises or cash payments: three flat pay raises ($300 each); three one-shot annual payments ($350 each); six cost-of-living raises, and a one-shot bonus of $150 for workers whose unions ratified the agreement. Not surprisingly, it was ratified.

In addition, the USPS pays an average of 70 percent of the health insurance premium for bargaining unit employes.

Over the same three-year period, white-collar federal workers will get three raises of about 4 percent each, with no COL protection. The government pays only 57 percent of their average health insurance premium.

In addition, the postal contract gives job guarantees to most employes.

White-collar workers are subject to RIFs (reductions in force) for economy reasons, and the white-collar federal work force has shrunk by nearly 50,000 jobs (including 20,000 lost here) while the semi-independent USPS hired about 8,400 people since President Reagan took office.

White-collar federal pay raises are controlled by the president and Congress. Those raises have been capped on a bipartisan basis (Ford, Carter and Reagan) below amounts needed, according to government pay data, to keep government pay on par with private industry.

The average white-collar federal salary in the Washington area is about $26,000.

Because of the big pay, fringe and security benefits postal workers have won through bargaining, members of Congress with large constituencies of federal white-collar workers (in such cities as Washington, New York, Cleveland, Los Angeles, Philadelphia, Denver and Seattle) would like to introduce collective bargaining in the rest of the government.