updated 2/24/2009 3:16:23 PM ET 2009-02-24T20:16:23

A bankruptcy judge says Delphi can stop paying for health care and insurance benefits for its retired salaried workers.

U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Robert Drain on Tuesday provisionally approved the auto supplier's request to cut off the benefits effective April 1. But he says the 15,000 affected retirees can form a committee to investigate if they have the right to negotiate with the company.

The committee will present its findings at a March 11 hearing.

Troy, Mich.-based Delphi Corp. has been operating under Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection since 2005. It says it needs to cut off the benefits as part of its restructuring.

But attorneys for the retirees say the company is obligated to negotiate with the retirees before it cuts off their benefits.

More than 1,600 retirees sent letters to the judge begging him to deny Delphi's motion.

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