The State parole board is embroiled in accusations of workplace bullying after claims that about half its staff have been shuffled to other positions or quit amid complaints of a "toxic" and "hostile" environment.

Community and Public Sector Union secretary Toni Walkington has written to Department of the Attorney-General director-general Cheryl Gwilliam seeking a meeting to resolve complaints of an "alleged culture of bullying and intimidation" at the Prisoners Review Board which have caused "severe stress and anxiety". Ms Walkington said a formal complaint to WorkSafe was being considered.

But Justice Narelle Johnson, who was appointed chairwoman of the board in April last year, said there was no substance to the union's allegation that there was a culture of bullying at the board. She said she had full confidence in senior staff.

"There have been no complaints of bullying against me and there has been no occasion upon which I have ever engaged in behaviour of that type towards a staff member," Justice Johnson said.

Ms Walkington said all 10 of the employees who responded to a union survey in May said they had been subjected to bullying or witnessed the bullying of a colleague. Verbal abuse, isolation, threats of the sack or disciplinary action and unnecessary surveillance were among the complaints of the respondents.

The employees, who accused more than one senior staff member of being responsible for the bullying, reported panic attacks, headaches, loss of confidence and depression as a result of bullying.

Ms Walkington said the union had also obtained a copy of an independent survey, commissioned by board management and undertaken in February, which revealed problems with morale and reports of bullying behaviour in the workplace from a "significant" number of the 17 respondents

DOTAG director Michael Johnson said of the 20 staff at the board, eight had resigned in the past year and six were on secondment or leave after a temporary relocation.

Mr Johnson said a small number of people had been known to leave the board because they were "not happy in the work environment".

But secondments were used to assist professional development and assist operational needs.

Mr Johnson said one formal complaint concerning a senior staff member at the board was being investigated. There had been no complaint of bullying against Justice Johnson.

Shadow corrective services minister Paul Papalia said allegations of bullying at the parole board were particularly sensitive and had to be dealt with as a matter of priority.

Attorney-General Christian Porter said Justice Johnson had the Government's full support and any complaints would be dealt with through normal processes.

The West Australian

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