Federal employe unions have asked Congress and the courts to stop the Agriculture Department from furloughing 7,000 meat and poultry inspectors on the next three holdays, a move planned by USDA to save money without cutting into work time.

Agriculture's Food Safety and Inspection Service plans to furlough employes on Memorial Day, Independence Day and Labor Day. Normally the employes would be off those days, with pay.

The department says the unprecedented holiday furloughs would save several million dollars, but inspection service employes say that if they must be furloughed, it should be on a regular work day rather than a holiday. If they're going to lose a day's pay, they'd rather not lose it on a day off.

Agriculture officials maintain that the furloughs will not have an adverse impact on the meat-packing plants, which process most of the meat and poultry sold commercially in the United States.

The payless holidays also are planned for office workers in the inspection service.

Most federal agencies must cut spending between now and Sept. 30, the end of the fiscal year, to comply with the Gramm-Rudman-Hollings Act. Although a number of agencies are considering furloughs, the inspection service is the first to announce a holiday plan. It was approved by the Office of Personnel Management earlier this year.

The American Federation of Government Employees has asked the U.S. District Court in Philadelphia to block the holiday furloughs. The union says that federal rules require employes furloughed on a holiday to be out the day before and the day after as well.

The National Federation of Federal Employees union, in an effort to ward off similar moves by other agencies, has asked the Senate and House Appropriations committees to order USDA to drop the plan. NFFE President James Peirce called it "parsimonious and morale-damaging" and one of the "most despicable personnel policies I have ever witnessed."

An NFFE official said: "If you are furloughed on a regular work day, you at least get the benefit of the day off even though it costs you money. You are legitimately not being paid for not working.

"But on the holiday side of it, the holiday pay is in fact an entitlement. What they are doing is taking away a day of pay without giving workers at least some benefit for that loss of pay, a day off." Unhappy Alumni

A survey by the Federal Executive Institute Alumni Association indicates that many of its members who hold top-level federal jobs are unhappy with pay and working conditions.

The FEI in Charlottesville acts as a postgraduate school for mid- and upper-level executives. Being assigned to the FEI is an indication that the employe has been marked for the career fast track.

The alumni association sent questionnaires to 2,000 of its members who are in the federal government or have recently left the civil service; 61 percent responded.

Of 200 persons who have left government recently, 44 said they retired because of age, 35 because they were unhappy with federal pay scales; 34 cited threats to their retirement system and 30 said they left because they were dissatisfied with their jobs.

Asked if they would encourage young people to come into government, 659 said they would not; 527 said they would recommend a federal career. Jobs

The Drug Enforcement Administration has 100 openings for clerk-typists, Grades 2 through 4. Call Donna Falk, 633-1219.