Stagehands and other members of the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees who work at the Kimmel Center For The Performing Arts, Merriam Theater and Academy Of Music walked out Sept. 30 seeking wage and benefit increases and better working conditions.

Negotiations reportedly became heated as an expiration date for the workers’ labor contract drew closer, and officials from IATSE told the Philadelphia Inquirer the Kimmel “wanted to shift some of the work to a nonunion workforce.”

But in a statement, Kimmel CEO Anne Ewers noted that the venue has already been forced to reduce program offerings, cut staff positions and salaries in light of current financial pressures.

“This negotiation cannot simply be about what a union wants. It is about what the performing arts community can bear at a difficult time,” Ewers wrote. “We will be fair, but we cannot ‘buy peace’ by agreeing to terms that ignore the issues of the day or the context of our times.

“We cannot agree to terms that will imperil our ability to fulfill our civic mission: to bring the incredible power of the performing arts to the greater Philadelphia community.”

If a contract is not reached by Oct. 10, performances at the venues could once again be in jeopardy, the Inquirer said.