The minimum wage should rise to more than £6 an hour by October next year, according to the TUC.
The TUC’s annual submission to the Low Pay Commission also calls on it to “ignore unjustified employer calls” for a freeze in the rate.
The union umbrella group wants more money to be put into enforcement so that there is no hiding place for employers that illegally pay less than the minimum wage.
Last year, the 120 enforcement officers employed by HM Revenue and Customs recovered £3m for workers who had been illegally denied the minimum wage by their employers.
The Low Pay Commission is reviewing the impact of the minimum wage upon the economy.
The TUC’s submission also repeats its call for the interim rate – currently £4.25 paid to 18 to 21-year-olds – to be phased out so that workers can get the adult rate (currently £5.05) as soon as they turn 18.
Any hike in the minimum wage rate will be greeted with anger by most employers’ groups. They complain that business has already suffered too many rises since the national minimum wage was introduced in 1999.
Brendan Barber, TUC general secretary, said: “The minimum wage has made a real difference to more than a million low paid workers every time it has been increased, with no adverse economic effects.
“There is no sound reason why we should not continue to boost the wages of the very low paid above inflation, with a minimum wage of more than £6 by the autumn of 2008.”
Susan Anderson, CBI director of HR policy, said: “The TUC’s rainbow chasing on the minimum wage risks damaging the economy and threatening jobs, at the expense of working people just as much as of businesses.
“There is every sound reason to avoid a sharp increase in the minimum wage, when the Low Pay Commission itself has warned that the time for inflation-busting rises is over.”