By Robert Edison Sandiford
BRIDGETOWN, Barbados (Reuters) - Thousands of Barbadians took to the streets of Bridgetown on Monday to urge Prime Minister Freundel Stuart to reconsider a recent tax increase that has sparked a string of protests by workers.
The Barbados Private Sector Association and leading trade unions organized a joint march to demonstrate against the eight-percentage-point hike to the National Social Responsibility Levy implemented in the ruling Democratic Labour Party's May budget.
Protesters held signs reading "People of Barbados Need Relief," "Government Must Not See Black or White," and "Today We Endorse the Fellowship of Partnership" during the march.
Police estimated the turnout at the peaceful protest from Queen's Park through the streets of the capital, then back, to be as high as 20,000.
Barbados has a population of around 288,000.
The tax on goods and services aimed at funding healthcare and environmental measures rose from two percent to ten percent.
The unions and private sector lobbies, part of the so-called social partnership with the government, want more discussion on what they see as an unfair burden on their constituents.
But Stuart has refused, insisting he had vetted the matter sufficiently with the two groups in June.
(Editing by Dave Graham and Andrew Hay)