THERE WERE SOME SIGNS late yesterday that the unsanctioned and illegal shutdown of the Metro system is starting to crumble in the same chaotic way it took shape last week - with the riding public still left in the dark about what to expect. One thing people should expect and demand is that there can be no "amnesty" for the instigators of this dangerous confusion - those hotheads who took the law into their own hands to jeopardize the health and safety of citizens. For them to be returned automatically to their jobs or immunized in some way from whatever legal consequences may be in order would amount to an open invitation to any tiny band of disgruntled employees to turn their tantrums into another systemwide shutdown.

So far, the judges who have been dealing with this matter have been fair in hearing all parties quickly and in forcing management and union to make the orderly, legal procedures of arbitration move more swiftly. That is where the cost-of-living issue was before this mess began, and that is where it should be settled. Moreover, the union as well as Metro's management each has a great stake in dealing severely with wildcat strikes - for up to now these impromptu "job actions" have made a mockery of established leadership on both sides.

The other party with a considerable financial interest in these matters is the public. Indeed, the people who are hardest hurt are the poor who must depend on public transportation to get to their jobs. They and everyone else who is properly incensed by the Metro shutdown should look to Metro to follow up its suspensions of employees and fire those found to have provoked this menace to public safety and welfare. In the meantime, those employees of Metro who recognize the importance of bargaining for improved working conditions in a democratic and legal manner should express their adherence to the established procedures by going back to work.