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Who are the staff? — Marit Warrer has been a laboratory technician at UCPH since 1972 and has survived a series of mergers and cutbacks that have cost many of her colleagues their jobs. In June it's all over, as her work has given her osteoarthritis. This portrait is part of the article series 'Who are the staff at UCPH?'
In 2011, there were 343 laboratory technicians employed at the University of Copenhagen. In 2017, there were 295 left. Laboratory technicians and bioanalysts are two of the groups of personnel that have been trimmed down the hardest at the university.
And you can clearly feel that the numbers of colleagues have been reduced, says Marit Warrer, who is one of the employees who has been at UCPH the longest.
In the past, a laboratory technician was typically associated with one research group, but today they assist the researchers in several groups. And they have also been given new tasks. This makes it difficult to fulfil all their working day obligations, she says.
Laboratory technicians at UCPH
Monthly salary on average: DKK 35,677 (including pensions, supplementary allowances and remunerations)
Number of employees: 295 (full-time equivalent)
“It is said that we should share our time equally between teaching and research, but the only place that we can cut back on is the research, and this is a pity,” says Marit Warrer, who still finds it fun to go to work, even if her hands and knees are in pain because of the arthritis .
She reckons that she now actually spends approximately one third of her working day on research.
As a laboratory technician, she attends meetings where researchers discuss their findings and decide which way they should go with their research projects. She also has responsibility for the practical implementation of scientific experiments, and she teaches students in laboratory techniques and prepares materials for courses. A growing portion of her working time is being taken up by other tasks that have ended up with the laboratory technicians because of cutbacks, she says.
“There are not fewer tasks, quite the contrary, but there are fewer laboratory technicians. And in addition we have to deal with things which we are not really trained for,” says Marit Warrer.
We the laboratory technicians have got caught in the middle, as in times of cutbacks it seems easier to do without a laboratory technician than a scientist
She sees that laboratory technicians have become handymen, that are responsible for things like goods purchase, inventory management, price and invoice checks, operation of water systems and appliances, animal care, waste management – just to name a few of the tasks.
Marit Warrer was hired in December 1972 on a grant from a foundation at the former Department of Microbiology in the Botanical Gardens, where she primarily worked for two PhD students. Since then, she has been through 4-6 mergers and restructurings, the department has become larger, and the management has moved further and further afield.
She has been elected to various governing bodies as a representative for technical and administrative staff (TAP) and has worked for the last few years as the representative for laboratory technicians in the Biocenter, so she thinks she has some insight into UCPH trends.
“Management sometimes loses sight of what is happening at floor level, and the professional groups lose sight of each other’s work, and the understanding that we are all in this together. “We the laboratory technicians have got caught in the middle, as in times of cutbacks it seems easier to do without a laboratory technician than a scientist,” says Marit Warrer.
According to Marit Warrer, the laboratory technicians are the permanent anchors in the research group that ensure that the students get the experiments done in the right way. In this way, time is not wasted (a failed trial can take up to 14 days to repeat) and research results are comparable.
This portrait is part of the article series ‘Who are the staff at UCPH?’ which takes stock of the trends in the staff mix at Denmark’s largest university.
And read about the trends in the mix of UCPH personnel since 2012 here.