Many of the government's 175,000 straw bosses -- who feel they have been kicked in the wallet the last few years--may want to face Capitol Hill May 26 for a moment of silent prayer.

That is the day the Senate Civil Service Committee kicks off hearings on a plan to revise the merit pay system introduced by the Carter administration for Grade 13, 14 and 15 employes who have been designated supervisors or managers.

An estimated 60,000 federal workers here are under the merit pay system. Like so many things, the system looked better on paper than it has worked out in practice.

In fact, the merit pay system is so faulty the Office of Management and Budget doesn't participate in it, although most other agencies do.

People under the merit pay system do not get regular within-grade pay raises (worth 3 percent) that go virtually automatically to other employes every one to three years.

And when general pay raises come around each October, persons under merit pay are guaranteed only one half of the percentage increase. To get more they must get good ratings from their bosses. Many maintain that even if they get the full amount of the October pay raise, they still lose money by being denied the automatic within-grade raises. Under the current system even supervisors and managers who get poor ratings get half the October pay raise.

Sen. Paul Trible (R-Va.) and Rep. Frank Wolf (R-Va.) have introduced a bill that would revamp the merit pay system. Under their plan supervisors/managers who were rated "fully successful" would get the full pay raise, plus within-grade raises. Those rated higher would get both, plus a chance to get one-shot bonuses of up to 20 percent of salary. Those who were rated unsatisfactory would get nothing.

Rep. Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) has introduced a similar merit pay bill but, being as he is a Democrat and all that, the Republican-controlled Senate will look at the Trible-Wolf bill. (Lest you think this is dirty pool, be advised that bills introduced by Democrats get first priority on the House side, which they control.)

During the hearings, which will be conducted by Sen. Ted Stevens (R-Alaska) the Reagan administration will be offered the opportunity to amend some of its proposed pending rules changes. They would extend some of the principles of the merit pay system to government workers in lower grades.

Stevens--as reported here last week--has advised the Office of Personnel Management that he will block any attempt to base within-grade pay raises, promotions and layoffs on an employes' last performance appraisal, rather than seniority. Steves hopes to block any administrative rules change via the appropriation process.

The House is also working on language that would prohibit any changes unless approved by Congress. If the administration decides that it will have to go through Congress, it may be willing to talk compromise at the hearing.