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Strike at Canada's biggest railroad enters third day as talks continue

MONTREAL/WINNIPEG, Nov 21 (Reuters) - A strike at Canada’s biggest railroad, Canadian National Railway Co, entered its third day on Thursday, as the company said talks were continuing with workers, assisted by federally appointed mediators.

Some 3,200 unionized employees, including conductors and yard workers, hit picket lines on Tuesday amid softening demand for freight service. The strike, the biggest in a decade, has slowed output at industrial plants making products such as chemicals and canola oil that were cut off from their markets.

CN Rail Chief Executive JJ Ruest said in a statement on Thursday he regretted the impact the strike was having on customers and was committed to finding a solution.

The railway has proposed binding arbitration, an option that the Teamsters Canadian Rail Conference union has rejected.

The union’s concerns center on fatigue, safety and ensuring that workers’ breaks are not reduced.

Canada, one of the world’s biggest exporters of farm products, relies on CN and Canadian Pacific Railway to move crops, potash, coal and manufactured goods to ports and the United States.

Numerous industry groups, including mining, chemicals and lumber, have complained about the impact of the strike on their businesses.

On Wednesday, Canada’s transport minister said the talks were making progress. A spokesman for the ministry said on Thursday there was no further update.

Union representatives could not be immediately reached.

CN shares eased 0.3% in Toronto, continuing a four-day slide of 3%. (Reporting by Allison Lampert in Montreal and Rod Nickel in Winnipeg; additional reporting by Kelsey Johnson in Ottawa. Writing by Denny Thomas; Editing by Bernadette Baum)