Trade union Unison wants the minimum wage to rise to £6.50 an hour.
Dave Prentis, general secretary, presenting evidence to the Low Pay Commission (LPC), said: “Big Business scaremongering and self-interest continues to undermine the minimum wage’s potential to eradicate poverty and get workers off benefits.
“The time is right to take a calculated leap forward on the minimum wage. Since it was set at £3.60 an hour in 1999, the increases have been at a snail’s pace –held back by the prophets of doom at the CBI and their cronies. The same old scaremongering that bleats that jobs will go – and the country is doomed to go through a winter of discontent.
“This blatant self-interest has seen the pay gap between directors at the top and workers at the bottom grow wider – surely it’s that injustice that will lead to a winter of discontent,” he said.
Employers bodies have warned that further rises in the minimum wage could impact on competitiveness of British business.
The EEF, the manufacturers’ organisation, has called for a pre-determined formula to be used for setting future increases in the national minimum wage.
The organisation said that a formula – based on a retrospective analysis of the movement of basic rates of pay across the economy – would provide employers with the benefit of greater certainty about future increases.