As a federal employee of nearly 30 years, I am continually taken aback by the attitude of non-federal employees who think we are overpaid and under-worked and who show a strange mixture of envy and contempt toward us.

Well, Edward Fritz's letter {Dec. 24} helped clarify the situation for me. He seems to believe that every federal worker gets an annual 6 percent raise. No wonder he, and others who believe as he does, become angry when they hear us complain about poor pay.

To set the record straight -- the 6 percent raise is given to employees who have been promoted. Each federal grade has 10 "within-grade" steps, with the difference between steps being about 3 percent. If performance is satisfactory, an employee gets an in-grade raise every year for three years, then every other year for six years, then every third year for nine years, then no in-grade raises, because there are no more in-grade steps. Most employees have been in their grade for more than four or five years and get "in-grade" raises every second or third year, not every year.

For Fritz's information, the average in-grade annual raise is about 1 1/4 percent. If he would be satisfied with that annual raise, he should come work for the government. -- Bruce P. Kirk

I have worked for the federal government for 8 1/2 years, and I expect to remain in federal service for my entire career. I have tolerated more than my share of abuse from know-it-alls like Edward Fritz who preach that the career government employee is the root of all evil. Sometimes the abuse is too ridiculous to ignore.

Let's take a look at some of Fritz's boneheaded complaints:

"Not one federal employee has been laid off or will be."

Tell that to the people who worked at the Department of Energy or the Department of Education 10 years ago.

"All employees get another in-grade or between-grade increase of about 6 percent every year."

Within-grades don't come every year, and they are closer to 2 percent. Fritz maintained that all federal salaries are going up by 10 percent this year as opposed to what he called a paltry 4 percent. My salary is going up 4 percent, and I agree with Fritz that that raise is "paltry."

"These same people now demand additional cost-of-living raises."

I am not demanding anything. I make two-thirds of what I could in the private sector, but I put up with it partly because of job security (it's not perfect, but good) but mostly out of a sense of patriotism. I'm good at my job, and I'd rather have me doing it than someone less capable. I'm too realistic to demand a fair salary.

"As every Washington businessman knows, it is the federal government that sets the salary levels in this area."

Did I miss something? I thought businessmen understood the concept of a free market.

As I say, I am too realistic to expect my salary to come up to par with private industry. I am also too realistic to expect Fritz and his fellow marching morons to wise up about the government. People who depend on services usually hate the people who provide them, and so it is with taxpayers and the government.

But it sure would be nice to make one of them work for us for a year. It would be a treat to see the reaction to the awful facilities, the terrible parking , the low pay and the lack of respect.

Hey, Fritz, want a job?

-- Andrew D. Culhane