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Trade unions are typified as having ‘two faces’ – one of social justice and the other of vested interest. This article examines the tensions and difficulties confronted by trade union movements in the South Pacific seeking to balance the ‘two faces’ of unionism during a period of political and economic instability in the region. It looks at the difficult choices that trade union movements in Papua New Guinea, the Fiji Islands, and the Solomon Islands have had to make to preserve their interests in response to sweeping micro-economic reforms and how they have sought to work with civil society organisations to restore political and social stability. The paper draws out some tentative lessons that may enable South Pacific unions to better respond to these difficult challenges.

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