The TUC urged Chancellor George Osborne to signal a change of direction in next month's Budget to boost growth and investment.
Union leaders have accused the Government of "dragging down" the economy after they published research showing that the UK has experienced the second lowest export growth of all G7 countries over the past two years.
Companies should also be forced to disclose pay ratios between the lowest and highest paid staff under moves to tackle "soar away" directors' pay.
In its Budget submission, the TUC called for a publicly-owned business bank to be set up, with £40 billion over four years.
The union organisation said of the G7 countries, only Japan had fared worse on exports since 2010.
TUC general secretary Frances O'Grady said: "The UK is currently gripped by two big crises - falling living standards and economic stagnation. For all the Chancellor's talk of the UK paying its way in the world, his own strategy is dragging the economy down.
"On growth, exports and investment the UK is falling behind its competitors in Europe and across the globe.
"It is far better to invest in improving our transport and energy networks than to pay for the costs of economic failure that high unemployment and falling wages bring.
"But the Chancellor also needs to do more to help families suffering through the UK's living standards crisis. With real wages falling since 2009, the Government has heaped on the pressure by raising VAT, cutting welfare support and freezing pay for public servants.
"Giving low-paid families a few hundred pounds in a tax break is no good if they are also losing thousands more in tax credits and when wages are failing to rise as the economy stagnates. Instead we need to see a reversal of benefit cuts and policies that can secure better wages, including measures to tackle soar-away pay at the top."