Officials of nearly three dozen union locals representing D.C. employees will meet this morning to organize a united front against Mayor Sharon Pratt Dixon's repeated call for pay-raise deferrals and possible furloughs.

The meeting, the first since Dixon announced her plan for pay-raise deferrals to ease the city's $300 million deficit, signals labor's growing fear that Dixon will exploit her election mandate to push for the cuts without negotiating with the unions.

"The unions are realizing that our survival is tied to whatever degree we can forge a course here for the working people of the city, whether they are union or not," said Ed Kornegay, president of Teamsters 1714, which represents about 4,200 workers in the Department of Corrections.

"There's a strong sense that all our interests are at stake," said David Schlein, national vice president of the American Federation of Government Employees. "It's not AFGE or AFSCME {American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees} or Teamsters now. There's a sense that all of us are working on common problems."

Their common solution, so far, seems to be to urge Dixon to accept the need for a tax increase. Dixon ran on a platform of no new taxes, and has stood firm on that point since her election.

That has not dissuaded labor leaders, many of whom say Dixon is still making campaign speeches and not facing up to the political realities of her job.

"Politicians always talk about no new taxes," said Joslyn Williams, president of the Metropolitan Washington Labor Council. "Even George Bush had to step back from that."

Karen Tramontano, Dixon's labor liaison, could not be reached comment about the mayor's approach to negotiations.

Dixon's proposal to defer pay raises caught labor leaders, particularly Kornegay, a top-level member of her transition team, by surprise.

During her campaign, Dixon had voiced support for a 2 percent pay raise, which the union leaders had submitted to the city last year, as part of a proposal to extend the existing contract by an additional year.

Despite the budget crisis, union leaders believed the proposed raise, the smallest given to any municipal work force in the metropolitan area, would remain.

On Jan. 3, the day after she was sworn in, Dixon presented the pay cut proposal to union leaders. In the next two weeks, members of the mayor's financial staff warned the union officials that workers would have to accept the cuts if the District was to overcome a $300 million deficit.

The total amount of money that would be saved by Dixon's pay-raise deferral proposal is $63 million, including raises for city personnel, teachers, police officers, firefighters, doctors and non-union workers. Nurses at D.C. General Hospital, however, negotiated a 12 percent pay increase in November that took effect this month after being reviewed by the council.

In the past, the union officials have bickered among themselves over strategy, especially concerning the ill-fated proposal last year to extend the current three-year contract for blue- and white-collar workers.

AFSCME refused to go along with the other unions last year in seeking the extension and a 2 percent raise. With then-Mayor Marion Barry facing trial and an uncertain political future, the other unions concluded that a contract extension was their best bet.

"We had nobody to negotiate with and we decided to try to grab something for our folks, cut our losses and wait for the new mayor and try to negotiate again next year," Kornegay said. That strategy failed when the D.C. Council, fearing the mounting fiscal crisis, voted against the proposal.

The union differences also became apparent during the mayoral campaign when labor endorsements splintered, with little support going to the long-shot Dixon candidacy. Now that Dixon is in charge, the unions are finding that they have reduced standing at the District Building.

Some of the union officials also complain that the new mayor has no experience in dealing with big-city disputes over wages and working conditions.

During a recent meeting between labor leaders and Dixon financial advisers, the unions were asked to offer their own proposals for reducing government spending. The union leaders responded by asking to see the proposals of city departments and agencies for absorbing the spending cuts ordered by Dixon, a request that Dixon aides refused.

"We know the city is in crisis. We want to help the city, but we need to go to the {bargaining} table," said Gizaw Gessesse, acting executive director of AFSCME Council 20, which represents 8,300 workers. "But if we're not at the table, why should I give them my strategy to management? They want information I have to use it in a way to affect me."

The current contract for city workers expired Sept. 30 and union leaders sent Dixon a letter this month requesting negotiations for all the work-related issues she has raised since taking office.

Union leaders are certain to press Dixon today for a response and a starting time for negotiations.

Council Chairman John A. Wilson, meanwhile, has stepped up his role in the budget controversy. Two weeks ago, he put council members and their staff on notice that they should take furloughs. This week, he asked for a meeting with the Washington Metropolitan Labor Council and all unions that will feel the budget crunch.